In 2001, Quintana (Clinard) Stewart officially began her career in public health education with the Forsyth County Department of Public Health just months after graduating with a degree in Public Health Education with a concentration in Community Health Education and national certification as a Health Education Specialist (CHES). She was hired as a Health Educator I with the primary responsibility of teaching the Parenting Classes to future parents & siblings-to-be. Less than a year at the department, Quintana was promoted to a Health Education Specialist position, where she served as the Coordinator for the Forsyth County Healthy Community Coalition. As the Coordinator, Quintana played a leadership role in the successful effort to have the Coalition certified as a Healthy Carolinians initiative. Quickly distinguishing herself as a leader, in about five years, Quintana earned a fast track promotion into Senior Management within the Health Department as the Director of Emergency Response & Communications. In this capacity she was responsible for developing and maintaining preparedness and response plans for manmade or naturally occurring infectious disease disasters- a plan we appreciate but hope will never have to be implemented! Quintana completed her master’s degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Health Care Administration from UNC-Pembroke in 2013 and was then selected as the Assistant Health Director managing the invisible daily operations of protecting the county’s health from to information technology to epidemiology and surveillance. During a panel discussion with our MPH student on her career path, Quintana stated “Health Educators are the pulse of public health…” and encouraged students to follow in her path: “Throughout my career, I’ve established a strong network of contacts in the field and my training in Health Education at UNCG made it all possible.”
Quintana’s journey did not stop in the role of assistant. In 2017, Quintana Stewart was named Director for the Orange County Health Department, a county she believes has a strong reputation for serving the entire community. Quintana’s goal is to “… continue to find some out-of-the-box kind of things with that spirit of innovation. I just want Orange County Public Health to be seen in the community, be part of the community… That is my vision for Orange County — maintain that top number one health outcome in the county health rankings.” To maintain the highest level of health and safety sometimes means developing evidence-based policies and plans that feels controversial and restrictive to the everyday citizen and business owners. The COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges to our overall educational and economic, and overall wellbeing, individually and collectively. Pulling from her emergency preparedness experience, Quintana consulted with the county leadership, hospital administrators, community health centers and practitioners, as well as leaders from community agencies to monitor COVID-19 surveillance numbers and other health status indicators to mobilize community health efforts. Late in July, Quintana made a recommendation for UNC-Chapel Hill to consider virtual classes for the beginning of fall 2020 semester, for at least 5 weeks to determine if the campus could reopen and welcome students back safely stating “OCHD is providing this recommendation from the public health perspective with the best information we have at the current time during these extraordinary circumstances.” As with all history-makers, time did show this recommendation to be proven and UNC-Chapel Hill moved to online courses just 1 week after reopening.
From her academic roots cultivated by a “responsive institution making a difference in the lives of students and the communities, it serves” our 2020 Pacesetter Alumni recommendation is to Quintana (Clinard) Stewart, a leader committed to the public’s health.
Submitted by Professor Regina McCoy, 2020