Candace Webb honored with 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award

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Each year the USF College of Public Health joins the country in celebrating National Public Health Week, held this year April 2-8.

One of the highlights of the USF COPH observance is the presentation of the COPH Outstanding Alumni Awards, given to alumni who demonstrate—as judged by their former professors and current colleagues—exceptional dedication and improvement to public health. This year Candace Webb, who earned her MPH in maternal and child health in 2006, was one of two graduates honored with the award at a presentation held at the COPH in the Samuel P. Bell, III Auditorium on April 4.

“Public health is a great home for all my interests,” said Webb, who is a senior state health policy analyst at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families in Washington, D.C.

Candace Webb, MPH, accepting her award. (From left) Dr. Ellen Daley, Webb, Dr. Donna Petersen. Photo by Torie Doll)

Webb works with state advocates to advance the health and well-being of low-income children and families. She’s currently anchoring the 18-state network of child and family health advocacy organizations funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Insuring America’s Children: States Leading the Way initiative. In this role, she serves as the primary liaison with state-based health policy organizations engaged in efforts to advance and protect health coverage for vulnerable children and families at both the federal and state level—through building policy and communications capacity, leadership development and implementing innovative access solutions for children and families.

Candace Webb, MPH, attending a Georgetown University Center for Children and Families’ event. (Photo courtesy of Candace Webb)

“Public health work is intellectually stimulating and meaningful, and you can always bring it back to social justice,” commented Webb, a Tampa native. “So many disciplines come to bear when you’re advocating for social justice and health care. I love that I get to do that.”

A career in public health wasn’t on Webb’s radar until she experienced a family tragedy.

When Webb was 18 and a freshman at the University of Florida studying premed, her mother died of complications from HIV, a condition Webb had no idea her mother was battling.

“My mother was a single mom who at the time of her death was waiting for her employer health coverage to kick in with her new job,” said Webb. “Her death made me acutely aware of the barriers people face getting health care. Sadly, it doesn’t have to be this way.”

After graduating from UF in 2004 with a degree in health science education, Webb became a certified health education specialist and enrolled at the USF COPH. Webb said she chose the COPH because of its “solid reputation,” but wound up staying because of “the relationships I formed with amazing faculty, staff and students—relationships I have maintained to this day. I was fortunate to be around professors who were not only incredible academicians, but who also had practical experience in the field that they brought into the classroom.”

(From left) Webb near the U.S. Capitol with COPH’s Dr. Ellen Daley, Webb family friend Krystle Starvis and COPH’s Dr. Kay Perrin. “The COPH has been such a big cheerleader for me. I always felt supported there,” said Webb, who calls Daley and Perrin some of her “mentors and friends.” (Photo courtesy of Webb)

One of Webb’s academic highlights was partnering with Dr. Ellen Daley, associate dean of research and practice in community and family health, other COPH faculty and Moffitt Cancer Center on research regarding the psychosocial impact of HPV diagnoses. This graduate research assistantship paid 75 percent of Webb’s tuition and gave her an hourly wage.

“It afforded me an opportunity to form strong relationships and collaborate on research with faculty, staff and peers,” said Webb, who had some of the research published in peer-reviewed journals. “The assistantship was a huge support for me, and I am extremely grateful.”

Webb has received numerous accolades and awards and has held an impressive array of jobs advocating for the health needs of the underserved. She worked in education and training at the AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth, and Families; was a scientific program analyst at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (part of the National Institutes of Health); and has been both a health analyst and supervisory public health analyst in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Webb at work on Capitol Hill. “Knowing the work I do has an impact on securing and safeguarding the health and well-being of others fills me with a sense of personal satisfaction.” (Photo courtesy of Candace Webb)

To date, Webb says her proudest career accomplishment has been securing and completing a competitive 11-month leadership development program for mid-level federal government leaders run by the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the HHS Department. This while working her full-time job as a project officer with the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

“COPH helped me channel my idealism in a really good way,” said Webb in accepting her award.

Webb’s next career move is to keep doing what she does best: learning and serving.
“I’ll continue to serve and apply my talents to those who need them the most. I also want to add more tools to my public health professional tool box and am exploring doctoral programs. I love being a part of something that’s bigger than I am.”

Alumni Fast Five
What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
A physician or medical geneticist.

Where would we find you on the weekend?
At a worship service, enjoying one of the D.C. metro area’s brunch options, relaxing at a dinner party with friends, taking in a show at the Kennedy Center, going to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is amazing!

What is the last book you read?
I recently re-read “Tuesdays with Morrie,” by Mitch Albom.

What superpower would you like to have?
To be a super linguist.

What is your all-time favorite movie?
“Outbreak” and “Up.”

Related media:
Healthy Bites

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health