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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / February 2015 / I want to be a change agent for our children

I want to be a change agent for our children

By Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, MPH, Executive Director for the Children's Environmental Health Network

I want to be a change agent for equality, general decency, and overall protection of our most vulnerable...our children! I have had this same calling since I can remember...

On June 4, 2012, my dear Uncle, Professor Emmanuel Obot, was killed along with all other passengers in the Dana Airlines crash in Lagos, Nigeria. That tragedy has had a huge impact on our family and my view of my purpose in life. My uncle ran all of the 6 nature conservatories in Nigeria and was an internationally recognized environmental health leader, researcher, and advocate. His passing has provided me with an even stronger passion and desire to do all that I can to protect children from harm and uplift them to their full potential.

Coming from a multicultural family with a strong emphasis on community service, I have always been taught to care and nurture those around me. My passion for providing support and assistance for children has always been a part of how I was raised. Although interested in medicine (pediatrics) originally, I decided to focus on public health and started a career in maternal and child health. My passions and energy to provide science- based education, tools, resources, and support to communities in making informed decisions for their health and safety only grew stronger.

I could not have picked a more fitting organization to obtain my first job out of graduate school than the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN). The mission of our organization is to promote safe and healthy environments for all children. That includes where children live, play, and eventually work. There was no doubt in my mind that I was where I should be. I began doing education outreach and communications. I spent four years as Deputy Director and have had the honor of serving as Executive Director for the last 11 years. I love the constant challenges that come along with my job and the opportunities for continued growth and development. I enjoy the flexibility that the non- profit sector offers me personally (work from home options, ability to participate in many family activities, travel) as well as professionally (ability to chart my own course, keep up with emerging science, participate in education/training, active engagement and partner development, be a part of policy development ).

I was quite humbled to receive the William K. Reilly Award last year from The Center for Environmental Health Policy at American University. That was one of those moments when I realized that others were not only watching but also appreciating the energy and commitment that I make to the field of child health protection. My true reward will be to witness the transformative change that CEHN and so many other public health advocates are working so hard for each and every day.

During this journey at CEHN , I was married and gave birth to 3 amazing children. Between my passion for providing a healthy and safe start in life for all children and watching first hand the benefits that those aspects have in the lives of my own children, I am driven each and ever y day to do all I can to support those around me in making a true difference for those that can not serve as advocates for themselves.

I do not take for granted one day that I am able to perform this important, rewarding, and valuable work! It is my plea sure and honor to share all that I can with our next generation of leaders and advocates.

Steven P Brown | 2/20/2015

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