The Beauty of It

The Beauty of It

You may not need a passport to get there, but for Vance Farrow, MPH ’94, Nevada definitely posed “a bit of a culture change.” The Detroit native moved to Las Vegas in 2012 after 12 years in Washington, D.C., as chief of the Bureau of Cancer and Chronic Disease with the District of Columbia Department of Health. In Nevada, he’s an industry specialist in the governor’s economic development office, charged with strengthening health and health education resources and boosting the number of health professionals in the chronically underserved state. After four years, Farrow says, “I absolutely love it here.” He spoke to Findings about his work:

What sets Nevada apart from a place like Detroit, where you grew up, or Washington, D.C., where you used to work?

I’d never been in an environment before where you had to take into account a rural presence, and the technical and connectivity and access issues that come with that. You don’t have to drive far out of Las Vegas before it starts looking like a desert. Those folks—mostly ranchers, people in retirement communities—shouldn’t have to drive 100 miles or so just to get good health care. So we’re working with federal and rural hospital partners to try to create satellite clinics.

It almost sounds like global public health work.

When you think about it, the differences between one community and the next can be as great as between countries. In some areas of Nevada, people don’t even have drinking water—they have to get it from a well. We have a Desert Resource Institute that’s helping communities get access to clean water.

That’s something we could take to any climate that suffers the same kind of environment that we have. Global health is about taking your blinders off and thinking peripherally about how to solve problems. It’s about taking what you’ve been able to perfect in one place and re-creating it in another situation where you have like needs.

Did you ever imagine yourself doing this kind of work?

I tell people all the time, you can’t even fathom the way things are going to go. That’s the beauty of it. I studied health behavior and health education at SPH. And now in one aspect I’m in sales, and in another I’m in higher education, and in another area I’m in policy, and in another aspect I’m helping businesses to grow and expand. It’s a rainbow of things, and I feel like every bit of experience I’ve gotten over my career has positioned me to do this job well.