Dr. Catrina Chambers Seeks Policies for Disease Prevention

From The St. Louis American, April 24, 2013
By Sandra Jordan

Until late January, Catrina Chambers, Ph.D. served as an asthma disparities consultant for the St. Louis Regional Asthma Consortium.  During her two-year association with the group, Chambers focused on health promotion and disease prevention for the Consortium and expanded asthma networking agencies in St. Louis from four to 27 agencies in one year. Previously, she was the project director for the Asthma Management for At Risk Children, a grant for the St. Louis region.

“We looked at asthma-friendly pharmacies and talked to physicians about how to administer asthma medication,” Chambers said.

“We also had a health homes component where we put on some seminars so people can become healthy homes specialists and also teach about ways to alleviate asthma irritations in the homes and when they are out in the community.”

They also pursued a durable medical component in partnership with Asthma Friendly St. Louis.

“They provide spacers, bedding to eliminate any type of asthma or allergens that the patient will encounter in their home,” she added.

Chambers earned a master’s of science in public health from Meharry Medical College and a bachelor of arts in biology at Fisk University, both located in Nashville, Tenn.

Last year, Chambers earned a doctorate in public policy with a concentration on health policy from Saint Louis University. Her dissertation research explored the effects of smoking ordinances on asthma outcomes.

In July, the Sacramento native will again focus on asthma and tobacco prevention when she begins a fellowship in San Francisco.

“I will be doing an extension of my dissertation research, which was statewide tobacco policy,” Chambers said. “I will be looking on the return on investment for statewide tobacco policy for the asthma community.”

Seeing the effects of smoking on family members sparked her interest in asthma and smoking prevention. Initially, Chambers wanted to be a physician, but she realized something very important was missing in her quest in medicine.

“At first I wanted to become a doctor; however, after I finished up undergrad, I really didn’t know how to study,” she admitted with a laugh.

“That’s really a skill set that you don’t technically learn when you’re in high school, so I found out I wasn’t the best study person in undergrad.”

Chambers had a choice to make.

“I could either apply to medical school and fail, or I could get this secondary degree and really learn how to study and then still be attached to the medical school that I would want to go to, which was Meharry,” Chambers said.

“So when I advanced to the master’s program, I found out I really liked policy. How do you determine to provide service? How do you create the protocol for that? That part just really stood out to me more so than the redundancy of seeing patients every day.”

From that, Chambers learned how to study and discovered another interest in public health.

In St. Louis, her community activities included involvement with the Grace Hill Head Start Policy Council, the American Lung Association (ALA) where in 2011, Chambers served as the Diversity Chair for the Plains Gulf Regions and worked on the ALA Leadership Policy Council.

Chambers also served on the boards of the Urban League Young Professionals of Metropolitan St. Louis and the St. Louis Professionals for Healthcare Quality.  

In 2011, Chambers was inducted into the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society at Meharry Medical College. Last year, the National Sales Network recognized her as one of the most influential black women in St. Louis.

Chambers’ next efforts begin in July at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California San Francisco. It’s much closer to home, although there is no promise that she will stay there.

“I really love the D.C. area, but my family wants me to be in the California area, so they will have me here for at least two years,” she said. “But we will have to see after that.”

Whichever coast she ends up on, Chambers is passionate about health care and what she describes as “health care happening correctly.”

“And when I say that, I just think everybody has a role to play,” she explained. “And there is no pointing the finger in any one direction because there is no one solution to curing any health care issue.”

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