Retiring with a splash, Joan Segal ’64 ’82 is capping off her 40-plus-year tenure with an offer to match donations to establish UConn’s first fellowship in public health. When she learned that the MPH Advisory Board was launching an initiative to establish the Joan Segal Fellowship for Public Health, she volunteered to match gifts up to $25,000.
“I was very touched and humbled. It is our alumni who inspire me with all that they do to improve the health conditions of our population,” says Segal. “Their commitment to eliminating health disparities and to promoting social justice inspires me and makes my career worthwhile.”
David Gregorio, director of UConn’s graduate program in public health, credits Segal with providing the foundation her students need to make a difference in communities across Connecticut and beyond.
“Several hundred of our state and region’s local health directors, health care advocates, teachers, physicians and allied health professionals have been influenced by Joan’s guidance and determination to address the needs of the most vulnerable members of society,” he explains.
The Segal Fellowship Fund kicked off at the thirtieth anniversary celebration for the MPH program on March 29 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. with more than 100 alumni and friends paying tribute to Segal. Two dozen gifts have come in so far, including a $2,500 lead pledge from the UConn chapter of Delta Omega, an honorary society for public health.
“Joan’s most enduring accomplishment may well be ahead of us. Thanks to the generosity of Joan and Joe Segal and fellow alumni, the Segal Fellowship will allow our program to attract excellent students to continue her mission well beyond the foreseeable future,” says Gregorio.
Segal’s career at UConn started as an undergraduate in the early 1960s. Her first love was literature. She majored in English and kept busy socially through Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority.
“I had a wonderful undergraduate experience at UConn. I had a grand time, and I was well prepared for graduate school. Upon graduation, I immediately entered the graduate program in English at New York University,” she says.
Next came marriage and starting a career. Living in New York City and Philadelphia, Segal had a successful early start in publishing as a copy editor. But she needed a new career direction when she and her husband left those hubs for publishing and moved back to Connecticut in 1969 to build her husband’s optometry practice.
At that time, UConn had just started the new dental and medical schools and was getting ready to open John Dempsey Hospital. Segal was hired by the dean of the School of Dental Medicine as his research assistant. Part of that first job at UConn was establishing the dental school’s continuing education program, which was perfect training for her later positions as assistant and then associate director of UConn’s graduate program in public health.
Segal was one of 10 students in the first class of Master of Science in Community Health program—the forerunner to the MPH program—in 1976. She counts helping the program earn accreditation in 1984 under the direction of former director Holger Hansen as one of her greatest accomplishments. Segal has worked with dozens of MPH students as a mentor, advisor for theses and major projects, and supervisor for field placement. During spring 2014, she supervised 24 students working throughout the state on six different public health projects of significance to Connecticut’s population.
“My copy editing experience was highly useful in advising students on their capstone projects. I may have driven my students crazy with all the editing marks,” she says. “This year I am perhaps having the most fun I’ve had during my tenure. I’m enjoying seeing how they take their prior course work and apply what they learned to practical projects in Connecticut communities.”
Segal, who spent 32 of her more than 40 years at UConn working in the MPH program, sees a bright future for the program and its role shaping public health in Connecticut.
“I would like to see the MPH program grow and have a presence in the national Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health. I would love to see more financial support for MPH and doctoral students, as well as a little more money to support student activities and academic endeavors like international research and presenting at national meetings,” she says. “We should be using financial support to recruit the very best and diverse students to public health.”