Sophia Hector, who received her master’s in health policy and management from the USF College of Public Health in 2004, was recently named one of the National Minority Quality Forum’s “40 Under 40 Leaders in Minority Health.”
The National Minority Quality Forum is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to ensuring that high-risk racial and ethnic populations and communities receive optimal health care.” The 40 Under 40 Leaders are health care professionals—physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, researchers, policy makers and others—who work to reduce health disparities in the minority population.
Hector was selected among hundreds of applicants nationwide.
“This award is important because it gives minority health professionals the opportunity to get together, share ideas and identify best practices when it comes to reducing health disparities,” said Hector, who is STD program manager for the Florida Department of Health-Hillsborough County.
Hector sees those health disparities every day in her work directing the county’s STD clinics and overseeing STD surveillance and partner services.
“In 2017 in Hillsborough County, 15 to 24-year-olds accounted for 63 percent of all chlamydia cases,” commented Hector. “These disparities exist because of limited access to care and screening and lack of education and knowledge. We are trying to implement system-wide changes, like working with schools on providing more STD education. And when testing is done, making sure patients come back for treatment. Our goal is not just to provide services, but to address disparities as well.”
In addition to her STD work, Hector has been a part of the state’s School-Based Dental Sealant Program, which provides free dental sealants to children in Florida Title 1 schools, the Anytime, Anywhere breastfeeding campaign and tobacco-free policies for public housing (both CDC initiatives).
Hector was nominated for the 40 Under 40 award by Walter W. Niles, her former manager at the Florida Department of Health Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. Niles praised her as being “an incredibly reliable, honest and hardworking public health leader” whose “greatest quality is her remarkable sense of social justice and her incredible communication skills.”
Hector credits the COPH with helping her become the public health leader she is today. “The COPH gave me the ability to look at things from a population health perspective and not just seeing one individual in one scenario. The thing I love about this job is addressing public health concerns in the community and working with people to make a positive impact.”
Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health