All in the Family

All in the Family

She’s an Iron Man contestant, he’s a self-described couch potato. She’s an internationally recognized professor of health education and senior editor of an authoritative text, Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice, that some in her field call “the Bible.” He’s a policy wonk who turned to teaching late in life after a long and productive career in medical care.

Together, Karen Glanz and her father, Michael Glanz, have devoted more than 50 years to building a healthier world.

Karen, M.P.H. ’77, Ph.D. ’79, has done it primarily through teaching and research. A professor of behavioral sciences and health education at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and founding director of the Emory Prevention Research Center, she specializes in nutrition and cancer prevention. Lately, she’s been focusing on the structural and environmental factors that affect people’s behavioral choices, and consequently their health. For her contributions to risk reduction, early cancer detection, and primary prevention, she won the prestigious 2007 Elizabeth Fries Health Education award.

The distinguished public health scholar admits she’d never heard of public health “until my father was getting a degree in it.”

That was back in the early 1970s, when Karen and her dad were fellow University of Michigan students. Michael, M.P.H. ’74, was a 52-year-old deputy director of a community health-care program in Detroit who’d enrolled in the School of Public Health’s brand new On Job/On Campus program in order to learn more about medical care organization. Karen was an 18-year-old undergrad majoring in Spanish.

Father and daughter both look back with gratitude on their Ann Arbor days. Michael calls SPH “one of the best, if not the best, school of public health in the country,” and says “you felt you were with a first-rate outfit.” The school prepared him for subsequent work with Blue Cross Blue Shield and as an adjunct faculty member with several universities, among them the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Karen went on to get three Michigan degrees, including an M.P.H. and a Ph.D. from SPH. For a while she thought she might want to come back to Ann Arbor to teach at SPH, but the dedicated Iron Man contestant decided Michigan was too cold. In Atlanta, Glanz runs and swims at least six miles a day, and bikes when she can.

Although they both learned plenty from Michigan, Karen and Michael Glanz have also learned from each other. “He introduced me to public health,” Karen says of her dad. “And he’s always kept me aware of medical care organization and health administration. Even at the age of 87, he’ll tell you what’s wrong with the Medicare prescription plan—because he’s experiencing it.”

Michael Glanz says Karen has taught him the value of hard work, discipline, and perseverance. “I think she really works day and night,” he says. There’s something else, too. “She taught me that she’s a great daughter!”

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