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Sherri McDonald: Going for the Goal

NWCPHP’s Hot Topics in Practice webinar series welcomes a new lead moderator, Sherri McDonald, MPA, BSN.
Sherri McDonald: Going for the Goal

Hot Topics moderator Sherri McDonald with her husband

NWCPHP’s Hot Topics in Practice webinar series welcomes a new lead moderator, Sherri McDonald, MPA, BSN. She joins the training team to share her skills and stay connected with public health colleagues and issues around the region.

July 11, 2016

In public health, local knowledge and networks are the keys to success. No one understands this better than the new Hot Topics in Practice moderator, Sherri McDonald, MPA, BSN, who learned this lesson through more than 35 years of working in a variety of health settings throughout Washington State.

Sherri retired from full-time public health work in 2012 and now consults on a broad array of health system planning and training topics. She accepted the position hosting NWCPHP’s monthly webinar series for the chance to share her experiences and skills in these areas with the regional workforce. She also joined the training team as a way to stay connected to public health colleagues and to health issues—both long-standing and emerging.

“Public health is my passion; it’s my calling,” said Sherri, who knew she wanted to be a nurse in the second grade.

Sherri inherits the moderator job from NWCPHP faculty members Pat Libbey and Susan Allan, who will remain connected to the team and may occasionally host the monthly training forum. Coincidentally, Sherri inherited a previous job from Pat Libbey during her tenure in public health, serving as his deputy director at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services for 10 years, then succeeding him as director for another 10 years after he retired.

Sherri notes that mentoring is an important aspect of training, and she credits Pat for teaching her about managing people and projects. She hopes to pass those lessons on to other managers and trainees in the region. “Pat encouraged me to help people develop their best qualities and to build an organization that survives any individual leader,” she said.

In addition to her on-the-job training and advice from mentors, Sherri employs her academic preparation in her current role of consultant and trainer. After high school, she earned a diploma in nursing and later a bachelor’s degree in the field. Between credentialing programs, she held various hospital jobs, including working in an intensive care unit. The time spent in clinical settings helped her realize she wanted to focus on keeping people well instead of treating them after they became sick.

Looking back, Sherri believes her clinical training prepared her well for an important aspect of community health work—systems thinking. “During nursing school I was trained on all kinds of systems—cardio, circulatory, etc. The notion that things are interconnected is the same concept to a body as it is to a community,” she said.

Sherri McDonald MarathonSherri now devotes the majority of her consulting work to assessing health systems and developing solutions to the often lamented problem of “siloed programs.” Many of her projects help public health organizations conduct community assessments and strategic plans, giving them the big picture with which to develop targeted solutions. She has also consulted on projects related to integrating behavioral health and primary care and to improving access to care for Medicaid recipients. “I love big, interconnected problems I can map out and solve. I also love projects that have a beginning, middle, and end—something with an outcome,” she said.

Sherri applies this goal-orientated approach to her personal life too. She manages a hobby farm with her husband that includes horses, goats, ducks, chickens, dogs, cats, a one-acre garden, and a substantial greenhouse. They grow most of the food they eat and spend a large portion of the summer and fall canning vegetables. She also trains for and runs in half-marathons, and will complete her tenth one this September.

Sherri says she feels very fortunate to have the chance to keep working on intriguing public health projects. NWCPHP is equally happy to welcome her to the Hot Topics team. Sherri begins her work with the center this summer by helping the team map a strategic training plan and hosting the next live session in August.

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