McCarthy Capitalizes on College of Public Health Education to Become Trailblazer in Arkansas

By Kev' Moye

McCarthy was the college’s first student when she took a course when it opened in fall 2001. Her decision to enroll in the upstart school was a matter of capitalizing on a prime opportunity.

“When the college officially launched, students were needed,” she said. “Some of the college’s organizers knew I wanted a public health education and encouraged me to enroll.”

In the early days of the college, most of its students were working professionals in health care. McCarthy was part of that trend as she was helping to establish the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), which aims to facilitate access to high quality, cost-effective care for all Arkansans.

In the process of fulfilling her co-founder responsibilities for ACHI, McCarthy realized that there were skills she didn’t have but needed. McCarthy addressed the shortcomings by taking classes, which taught what she aspired to learn.

“For me it was not about being the first. It was about getting the skills that I needed for my career,” McCarthy said. “Attending the college was beneficial for me because it was similar to on-the-job education. The training I received from the college I applied immediately. There was no delay between the educational experience and applying it to my professional duties.”

“I enrolled in a public health policy class at the college,” she said. “I also enrolled in a statistics class at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in an attempt to put together the foundation of a public health education.”

In 2001 Arkansas ranked near, or at, the bottom of numerous national health status categories. The state’s subpar ratings meant that many people were dealing with health issues, a fact that motivated McCarthy to seek training on how to create health policies and programs to help communities and at-risk populations.

The New York native earned a master’s in policy in 2004.

“While growing up in New York City, learning about society, becoming cognizant of what was going on and why, I became aware of health disparities in various domains,” she said.

McCarthy is grateful for the role she played in helping to upgrade Arkansas’ public health status. In the process, McCarthy enjoyed a successful, trailblazing career eventually retiring from ACHI in 2019.

“Establishing the college marked the beginning of the overall awareness that public health can make a big change in people’s lives,” she said. “We knew that Arkansas could benefit from an entity that emphasized public health. For me, that’s what attending the college and getting the public health education and training was all about.”