Alumna Melissa Beaupierre practices her passion for public health through policy

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Before the USF College of Public Health (COPH) even had the building it calls home today, it was a young college, the first of its kind in Florida. It had a vision of creating trained public health workers dedicated to passionately solving problems and creating conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being.

Melissa Beaupierre, MPH, CPH, was a student during this transformational time for the COPH.

Melissa Beaupierre (far right) with friends at USF’s Fontana Hall in 1984. (Photo courtesy of Beaupierre)

Beaupierre became interested in public health while earning her BS in health education from USF in 1987.

“After graduation, my first professional job was at the Pinellas County Health Department as a health educator,” she said. “It’s been public health for me from that point on.”

From there Beaupierre transferred to the Hillsborough County Health Department before going to work in non-profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood and Tampa AIDS Network, a grassroots non-profit AIDS service organization .

“The very first government funding for HIV/AIDS came out when I was at the Pinellas County Health Department. The AIDS epidemic was exploding and the needs were so great,” she said. “I got more involved in HIV education in the late 1980s and began working in HIV/AIDS most of my time at the Tampa AIDS Network. My career has been focused on HIV/AIDS ever since.” 

During this time period, Beaupierre joined the COPH, earning her MPH in health policy and management in 1990.

“It was such a young program when I was there. We had classes in borrowed space from the Florida Mental Health Institute,” Beaupierre said. “I just remember an energy within the program.”

While it was tough for Beaupierre to be working full time while attending classes, she said the education was directly applicable and relevant to everything she was seeing day in and day out at work.

Beaupierre is currently the manager of policy and contracts and director of the Atlanta Family Circle HIV/AIDS Network with Grady Health System, Ponce de Leon Center- Infectious Disease Program in Atlanta.

“Coming to Grady’s Ponce de Leon Center reminded me of my days at Tampa AIDS Network. The HIV epidemic in Atlanta is as bad now as it was in Tampa during the early years,” she said. “Now I work on the HIV care and treatment side doing grant/program management and policy work. I love the passion and commitment here to helping people living with HIV get into and stay in care so they can maintain good health.”

Melissa Beaupierre (middle back) with the Grady Team at Atlanta Pride in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Melissa)

She said that almost every core component taught at the COPH is in play at Grady’s Ponce de Leon Center every day—from epidemiology, social determinants of health to health policy and it’s real world application of policy.

“There are moments that make me proud all the time,” Beaupierre said. “For example, securing funding for a new program to help expand services at Grady’s Ponce Center, or seeing patients who have become staff members and support patients who are struggling. They play a small part on a team that helps someone go from homelessness to stable housing and employment so they can then fully focus on their health.”

Beaupierre said that she looks forward to retiring someday, but hopes that’s in a time when there will be no new HIV infections occurring and people are no longer dying from advanced HIV disease/AIDS.

Fast Five for COPH alumni:

What did you dream of becoming when you were young?

An archeologist

Where would we find you on the weekend?

Sadly, probably at Target

What is the last book you read?

The Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes

What superpower would you like to have?

I’d like to be able speak every language – all of them

What’s your all-time favorite movie?

“The Princess Bride”

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health