University of Scranton Honor Society Recognizes Longtime Health Educator

April 19, 2017

The Community Health Education Honor Society, Eta Sigma Gamma, at The University of Scranton recognized a health educator who has served the community for several years by presenting her with the Outstanding Accomplishments in Health Education Award.

The honor society bestowed the award, its highest honor, on Karen A. Thomas, a health educator with Lackawanna County’s Penn State Extension, during National Public Health Week, celebrated this year from April 3-9. The award was presented at the West Side Active Older Adult Community Center on Jackson Street, the first community site to support the Community Health Education internship program at the University.

The award is given to individuals or organizations that have made major contributions to the health education profession through service, education and/or research.

Debra L. Fetherman, Ph.D., The University of Scranton’s community health education program director and the honor society’s faculty advisor, said Thomas has made major contributions to the program and greater Scranton community during her 10-year partnership with the University and its Exercise Science and Sport Department.

The University has partnered with Thomas since 2007 to support the community center’s Growing Stronger Program as a community-based learning project. The program is a 12-week strength-training initiative designed for adults age 40 and older and has served hundreds of community members while also allowing more than 300 students to provide service rooted in their education.

Thomas has served as an internship site supervisor for the Community Health Education Program for several years. The program offers a multidisciplinary community-based and practice-oriented education that prepares students to serve as health educators or pursue graduate studies in public health or health sciences.

“Her interns always share the valuable insight to health education that Karen has taught them,” Dr. Fetherman said at the presentation. “They also are impressed by her professionalism and sense of service to the community.”

Dr. Fetherman also recognized Thomas as a professional role model.

“When I started at the University, I was new to community-based learning and internships,” she said. “Her willingness to say ‘yes’ made it possible for me to facilitate helping students experience what it means to be a ‘person for others’ through their profession.”

The Eta Sigma Gamma honor society was founded in 1967, with the Epsilon Eta chapter at the University established in 2012. Its mission is the “promotion of the discipline by elevating the standards, ideals, competence and ethics of professional prepared men and women in health education.”

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