Dr. Sharon Laing is being recognized by the American Public Health Association for the excellence and impact of her mentoring.
“It’s simply something I do with my students.”
Dr. Sharon Laing, associate professor in the School of Nursing & Healthcare Leadership, is talking about the unpretentious way she devotes enormous energy to mentoring and advising.
Her work on that front was recently recognized by her peers around the world. On August 31 the American Public Health Association (APHA) announced that Dr. Laing is the 2023 recipient of the Lyndon Haviland Public Health Mentoring Award, given annually to a public health practitioner or academic who exemplifies excellence in mentoring of public health students and young professionals.
Particularly for BIPOC and international students, who are often the first in their families to attend college or to complete a degree, mentoring can be the key to success. With mentoring, these students can gain a sense of purpose and belonging in the academic and professional communities their futures depend on.
“I feel that, as faculty, we can teach in the classroom, but I think we must go beyond the classroom to fully engage our students,” said Laing when she was the recipient, in 2020, of the UW Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor award.
“I really strive for my students to think about the future beyond their baccalaureate degree,” she said. “I want them to think about how they’re using that degree, where they want to go and how they can make a difference in the various spaces that they will occupy in our healthcare infrastructure.”
Laing’s mentees provided testimonials in support of her APHA award. One said, “Dr. Laing has always challenged me to view things with a growth mindset.” Another said, “She has made a big impact in my life because I see someone who looks like me in academia and I know I can do it, too.” (You can read another example of the impact of Laing’s mentorship here: “The Right Medicine.”)
Mentorship is just one component of Laing’s work, which continued at a high pace during the past summer. She is an adjunct associate professor with the School of Public Health on UW’s Seattle campus, and recently joined the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center as an associate faculty member, where she will co-lead a project to help several King County school districts develop equity-based roles and responsibilities for school resource officers.
Laing is also partnering with Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Bonnie Becker on a project related to overall student success at UW Tacoma. “I’m really excited about that work,” she said. “If it gets funded, we’ll look at how UW Tacoma should best approach fostering two key motivations in our students: a sense of purpose (‘Why am I in college?’) and a sense of belonging (‘Why am I here at UW Tacoma?’). We’ll look at how putative high-impact practices — things like mentoring, study abroad, student clubs, involvement in research — affect those motivations.”
With all that, Laing is also continuing her own research into the physical and mental health challenges faced by healthcare providers in community health clinics. “This work is driven by the recent federal legislation that addressed Dr. Lorna Breen, an emergency room doctor who died by suicide in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Laing and her research team are working with local community health centers such as Health Point, a clinic network based in Renton that has a number of South King County locations.
The Lyndon Haviland Public Health Mentoring Award, given annually by APHA since 2009, is one of eleven awards presented at the APHA during its annual meeting. The awards ceremony this year will be held in Atlanta on Nov. 13. Besides Laing, recipients include Dolly Parton, who will receive the APHA Presidential Citation, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who will receive the APHA Distinguished Public Health Legislator of the Year award.
Innovative systems in UW Tacoma's new Milgard Hall include custom-designed modular pods containing electrical, low-voltage, plumbing and mechanical systems such as lighting, fire detectors and sprinklers.
Former student Arabelis Wally has received a prestigious fellowship at Johns Hopkins University that will support her graduate work. The Thomas Scholarship is awarded to "exceptional students from ... minority-serving institutions to pursue PhDs in STEM fields ... ."