Public Health Couple Celebrates Careers By Funding Scholarship
As a couple, Marshall Kreuter and Martha Katz have contributed 95 years to the field of public health.
Their careers have included service in academia, state and federal public health agencies, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, they are building upon their legacy by creating a scholarship fund to support the next generation of public health leaders.
“Both of us were the first generation in our families to go to college,” Katz said. “Our parents valued education but they couldn’t really afford to send us to college.”
Kreuter and Katz earned their degrees from public universities, which they attended with financial support from scholarships and fellowships.
“So to us it seemed like a fun idea to figure out how to do that for others,” said Katz, who is now chair of the Board of Directors for the Georgia Health Foundation and former Deputy Director for Policy and Legislation at the CDC.
Kreuter is a retired health education expert who began his career in the early 1960s as a public school teacher in California. He led the CDC’s health education division and taught health promotion courses during the early years of the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. He now serves on the school’s Board of Advisors.
The Kreuter/Katz Family Scholarship, endowed by the couple’s gift, was announced April 3 during the school’s annual Kreuter Katz Lecture on Health Equity, which is funded by Healthcare Georgia Foundation and also named for the couple.
“Marshall and Martha are great friends of the School of Public Health and they have made great contributions to public health research and practice,” said Dean Michael Eriksen. “This gift is a powerful demonstration of their generosity and we are grateful that it will allow us to help more wonderful people like them enter this field.”
The scholarship will award $1,000 a year, starting in the fall of 2017, to a graduate student with demonstrated financial need who has shown a strong interest in health equity and community engagement.
“If you’re going to make a difference in the health of a community, you need to engage the residents of that community,” Kreuter said. “You can certainly look at data and determine a set of priority health problems such as heart disease or cancer. Those specific health problems, however, may not be the priorities on the minds of the residents. So your main challenge is to incorporate what you have learned from the data along with what you have heard from the people.
“When you listen to people,” he said, “they begin to trust that you are concerned about their health. And that allows you to begin addressing their problems.”
Georgia State University’s diverse student body and the desire to encourage those who share their passion for public health inspired Kreuter and Katz to create the scholarship.
“There’s a certain joy in being able to do this kind of work because of the benefits you see for others,” Katz said. “If you’re in the field for as little as 10 years, you can see significant measurable results. If you want to see the impact of public health, look at how the number of motor vehicle deaths and injuries declined as a result of child safety seat and seatbelt policies. Look at immunization rates, food safety, tobacco and smoking. There has been phenomenal change during our careers.”
Kreuter and Katz said they hope the scholarship will help the next generation achieve the same degree of phenomenal progress in addressing the unequal burden of disease and lack of access to health care that some low-income communities and minority populations face.
“The goal is not just health for those with means but health for all people regardless of their means,” Kreuter said. “We hope we can contribute to young people getting enthusiastic about addressing problems globally and locally.”
“We get great pleasure out of seeing other people doing great work,” Katz said.
Story by Kathleen Joyner; photo by Dot Paul