Pacesetter - Winter 2010 - Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight: Jackie Phillips ’95

by Julie Thompson
Providence, persistence Obedience, faith opened doors, says city health commissioner.

It may appear that Jackie Phillips’ career success has been a result of being in the right place at the right time. That’s not how Phillips sees it.

The 50-year-old sees her rise from a part-time orthodontic assistant and single mom to the new Middletown health commissioner as the result of obedience. And there’s only one she’s willing to give the glory.

“I have been so blessed all my life, and I give all the glory to God,” Phillips said. “Throughout my entire journey, people were put in place to help me. I have learned that you have to be obedient to God in your life, and your path will be carved out.”

Phillips entered Kettering College in 1991 after realizing that her job at a Dayton-area
orthodontic office wouldn’t be enough to pay bills and support herself and her 2-year-old daughter. Her employer encouraged her to pursue a nursing degree by taking night classes and offered to make her schedule as flexible as possible.

Flexibility and the generosity of friends and supervisors – who at times even lent money when tuition was due – allowed her to press forward and graduate in 1995. Upon graduation, Jackie began looking for opportunities in Middletown, a city where she has lived since age 9. The city’s health department received a cardiovascular grant and hired Jackie as a part-time health educator to teach the community about heart disease.

She liked it so much that when a full-time position in the department’s vital statistics area opened up, she jumped at it and was hired. In 1999, she was chosen to be one of the first nurses to work in the department’s newly funded Help Me Grow program. Only six weeks into the job, the department’s nursing director resigned, and she was asked to consider the job.

Jackie again found herself surrounded by support. Her superiors didn’t think twice about the fact that the position required a master’s degree that Jackie did not have, and they helped her map out a plan to get it. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and a master’s from Wright State University.

This past June, another door opened: She was promoted to health commissioner. As Jackie looks back, she marvels at God’s hand and his sovereignty. Determination and hard work got her through years of study, family deaths and personal health issues, she said, but it was God’s providence that sustained her.

Her goal as health commissioner is to use her experiences to educate
the public. She’s also passionate about carrying out the department’s motto to promote, protect and prevent. Jackie said one of her challenges will be making the public more aware of what the department does since most of its work is in prevention.

“My goal is to make people understand and be aware of what public health is and the importance of it,” she says. “People hear about it when there is an outbreak, but we are here all the time, keeping people safe and making sure the places where they go are healthy.”