NJSOPHE President’s January Letter


Happy 2018 from the President’s desk! I am thrilled to be serving as President of NJ SOPHE for the next year. It is truly an honor to follow in the footsteps of so many amazing women (and a few good men)!

For those who don’t know me, my name is Robin Vlamis and I have worked as a health educator in a variety of settings over the years – at a health insurance company, a local health department, a non-profit group, a patient clinic, and most recently at a health communications agency. My type of employment has also run the gamut – intern, part-time, full-time, freelance, consultant, and volunteer. As many of us have seen a progression of the types of jobs and employment situations health educators hold, it is now more important than ever to have a strong association serving our needs and representing our profession.

The one constant throughout my career has been NJ SOPHE and the amazing people who are part of it. I started out as a member, volunteered for the Awards & Scholarships Committee, then chaired that committee, then moved on to chair of the Strategic Planning & Monitoring Committee, and now on to President.

So what’s next for NJ SOPHE? We all know, the only constant is change. And it’s time for NJ SOPHE to make the next step.What worked as a group when it was founded 34 years ago doesn’t necessarily work today. We need to change with the times and become a more modern organization that supports the ever-changing needs of our members.

What does this mean for you? It means more webinars. It means more networking opportunities. It means perks like professional headshots. It means a streamlined and automated membership process. It means an updated website with more pertinent content. It means more useful tools for you to use in your daily practices. It means more interaction and engagement on Facebook. It means a renewed and strengthened presence at the state and national levels. It means forming more and building upon our strategic partnerships.

I am excited to work with this year’s Board to build on the successes of our past while keeping an eye on what lays ahead. Iwant to continue making NJ SOPHE a professional organization you can be proud of – and I hope you’ll join me. Please consider getting involved in whatever capacity you can. I promise the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it!

Benefits of Joining NJ SOPHE

As a member of NJ SOPHE, you will enjoy many benefits including:

  • Discounts on innovative programs, conferences, and workshops
  • Continuing education contact hours
  • Networking and mentorship opportunities
  • Local job postings
  • Awards and scholarships
  • Active e-mail list where members share ideas and resources
  • Legislative alerts and advocacy resources


How has NJSOPHE helped me?

I attribute many things to my graduate school professor, Dr. Karen Denard Goldman. One of the most important things she did for me was to recommend that I join a professional organization to “network.”  I did not initially see the value in that, and to be honest, was a bit intimidated to join. There I was, in 2002, studying to take the CHES exam, sending out job application after job application with no prospect for employment in sight- what could I bring to the table at a professional meeting anyway? Who had time, or the money?

It was after I attended a national SOPHE meeting that I learned that there was much to be gained from networking and being a part of a professional organization.  Networking allows you to find a mentor and professional colleagues with similar backgrounds and interests. Networking allows you to ask questions, and learn about new things to get involved in. Networking allows you to find your professional home, and professional voice.

After such a warm response from my NJ SOPHE colleagues whom I met at the national conference, I joined the NJ SOPHE chapter as well as national SOPHE.  Belonging to the chapter where you live has many benefits- you get to get involved in the local issues, network if you are looking for a new job or considering changing your career path, and meet the professionals at the front lines of public health, at the state and local level.

I found my first job in New Jersey through NJSOPHE’s Job Bank, as the Health Educator/ Risk Communicator for the Somerset County Department of Health, right on the heels of CDC bioterrorism funding and the anthrax attacks.  I was a part of a group of 22 health educators, who were also members of, or affiliated with NJSOPHE. Being among other health educators with whom I could collaborate, share professional updates and learn some “tools of the trade” was invaluable.

One of the great experiences of NJSOPHE and National SOPHE is the opportunity it provides for a student or new professional to present to a professional audience, whether as a presenter or an author of an article or poster presentation.  Over time, these opportunities gave me confidence in public speaking, the expertise to submit and edit presentation applications to other organizations, the humbling experience of receiving critiques from my peers, and keep up with my continuing education professional credits that I need to maintain my CHES, then my MCHES certification. Being a member of a recognized professional organization connects you with other health educators who recognize your commitment to professional development.

As a member of NJSOPHE I have served as Recording Secretary (I believe my skills to take meeting notes has greatly improved over the years), the Strategic Planning Committee, Program Committee and as Membership Chair. While it is not easy at times, the benefits, connection and experience you receive are great assets in the professional world in terms of accountability, productivity, time management and organization, interpersonal skills and interaction, budget management, mentoring and personal growth through lifelong friendships you make along the way.

It warms my heart when I see other health educators I recognize at a state or national conference. What brings us together is a belonging to a group that represents the highest and best standard of our profession. In that affiliation and membership, we have a place in NJSOPHE to return to as a touchstone, a focal point and a beacon to guide us to the next journey in public health education, as we face all the challenges and triumphs together.

Candice Davenport

2017 NJSOPHE President