A Women’s Health Advocate Keeping Michigan Public Health on the Leading Edge

Jody Gray

Jody Gray

Human Resources Specialist, Department of Epidemiology; Program Administrator, Summer Session in Epidemiology


I've been in the Epidemiology department for over 40 years. I started when I was 19 - younger than our student body at the time. Now I'm the Human Resources Specialist in the department, and I act as the administrator for the Summer Session in Epidemiology. I've been able to see public health and our school through a very wide phase in my life. In fact, I've grown up here. Being in Epidemiology has been my work life and has, in part, made me who I am as a person, opening my eyes to different facets of health. Along the way I've been extremely fortunate to go through various administrative roles to get to where I am today. Epidemiology has grown to be a passion and has paved a great road in life for me.

I was intimidated when I started, in awe of the doctors and all these incredibly smart people that did things I'd never heard of before. As I spent more and more time with them, I started to 'get it.' I started to see what was going on here and in the field of public health, and why Dr. Monto was studying respiratory diseases, or doing flu and viral research with Dr. Massaab. I watched the school unfold tackling new epidemics, and continue to innovate around existing ones. I was blown away seeing new research projects erupt as the world changed, as things like AIDS emerged on a global scale. When I started, our Epid department was much smaller, our school was smaller, and I've been able to watch it grow with the world's needs.

In the middle of my career, the Summer Session in Epidemiology came along. I was asked to take on the administration of it and that opened up a whole new door for me. Today we welcome over 200 people from all over the world to come and take our courses each summer. The most renowned people in their fields come and teach, so I get to meet amazing faculty from across the globe. Watching them come together with our researchers and our students is one of the things that's the most rewarding to me. It's inspiring, seeing them take time out of their professional careers to enhance lives back where they came from.

An enormous effort is always being made here to make sure we're offering what public health professionals require right now, and what our world will need in the future.

Summer Session has led to some amazing friendships, for myself and many others. It's spawned relationships with people, not just here at the school but all over the country, all over the world. There are people I'm friends with that were students from Iran and Switzerland. I'm passionate about the Summer Session because of that, and because I've gotten to see just how much it has impacted the people who've come and taken our courses. I've seen them come alive when they talk about the courses they're taking, seen their interactions with students they've never met before. They find new perspective to take back home, new information and new skills to share with their colleagues. It's a level playing field for everyone, and many continue to work together long after they've left Ann Arbor.

One thing that's unique about the Summer Session is how it stays current. There's an advisory committee that governs the program, and it consists of various people from both inside and outside of the Michigan Public Health community. We meet in July to discuss the curriculum for the coming year (almost a year before we teach it) and that's when we welcome a true myriad of professionals - from health departments, other universities, our own faculty - to talk about what's hot, what's coming up next summer that will make us unique, but also keep us on the leading edge of public health needs and trends globally. In total, an enormous effort is always being made here to make sure we're offering what public health professionals require right now, and what our world will need in the future. It's tougher now because there are so many summer programs, but our Summer Session is the original. It's the longest running summer epidemiology program in the world. 

I feel very passionate about how to keep our bodies strong as we age to prevent health issues. Every chance I get, I talk about how important it is to keep moving, to keep your body healthy, vital, and active

My family is my life outside of public health. When I'm not on campus, I like to play with my grandkids, and just spend time with my wonderful family. I have two sons, and two grandchildren who are now three and six years old. We are avid campers and have seen and done some amazing things together while our family was growing up. My husband and I go camping every chance we get. Being away, and exploring new places is relaxing and refreshing, and it helps me focus on my life outside of work and appreciate all I've been given in this life of mine.

I am strong advocate for women's health. I feel very passionate about how to keep our bodies strong as we age to prevent health issues. Every chance I get, I talk about how important it is to keep moving, to keep your body healthy, vital, and active. Since 2004, I've totally transformed myself; coming from a place where I was much less healthy to where I am now. Seeing the benefit and experiencing that personally has changed my life and future. When I know of someone who's struggling with their weight, I know how hard it is, and I want to help. I'm so grateful that I was able to overcome being overweight, and that's something both my family, and my public health family helped happen. I am a fitness coach at a local gym for women (Curves), and I strive to help other women as much as I can. I workout 3 to 4 times a week, and if I don't make that 10,000 steps on my FitBit, I'm not a happy person. It's been a journey and challenge, and an important piece of my life. One of my biggest dreams was to be able to chase my grandkids around the yard, and I do now, all the time. It's an amazing blessing and a sense of freedom - both physically and mentally, and the rewards are endless.

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