By Dawn Hatfield
DARKE COUNTY — Jan. 1 brings not only a new beginning to the year, but a new era to the Darke County Health District. Jordan Francis, MPH, will then take the reins as the county’s new Health Commissioner following Dr. Terrence Holman’s 37-year tenure.
Francis earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management and community health education at Malone University and his master’s degree in public health at West Virginia University. While in graduate school, he worked as a health educator with WellWVU and as a health education specialist with WVU Healthcare Wellness Program.
He has since served many roles, including chair of Ohio Public Health Association, board member of EverHeart Hospice, president of Darke County Wellness Challenge, and Public Health Practitioner of the Year (2018).
Prior to being selected as Darke County General Health District’s Health Commissioner, Francis had served for seven years as Director of Wellness Services for Wayne HealthCare in Greenville.
“I can’t say enough good things about the hospital. They have great people, and I really enjoyed my time there. The resources available in a small community like this are astounding. The fact that they have world-class ortho program—get your knee and hip done and have your physical therapy right there.—it’s amazing what [Wayne HealthCare] is able to bring to this community,” said Francis.
Having now served as Deputy Health Commissioner throughout the fall, Francis said, “The [health department] staff are just outstanding—really good people who are doing really good things here. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the general public doesn’t know what the health department really does… I would summarize it like this: coming from the hospital setting, we were trying to mend health by impacting people’s lifestyles—diet, exercise, etc.—which do amazing things at the individual level, but at the health department, it’s like going to the other side and impacting their healthy lifestyles from a population level.”
Francis continued, “One way the health department does that is with early intervention through Help Me Grow. I’ve gotten to go on some site visits, and… it’s cool to see how unbelievably powerful what they’re doing is—providing support for new mothers, being there to facilitate good things for [families], especially for people who typically need it most.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Francis said, “Our community is aging. We are one of the oldest counties in the state. Aging population is definitely a community health priority.”
With so many potential environmental and health crises on the horizon, Francis was asked how he feels about the future. He responded with optimism, “Science is drastically improving year to year… Now you can call a research team [anywhere in the world] and have FaceTime conversations with them, share information with them… There’s just an astounding amount of research being produced on a near daily basis. There are people out there who are way smarter than me doing amazing things, so we all benefit from being able to read that research.”
“The other piece with health is that so often we put it on the individual and say, ‘You’re responsible for your health,’ when the reality is all of our decisions are shaped by our peer groups, support systems, our families, our environment, our community, and the health department is looking at ways we can impact our environment in a positive way to improve the health of everyone,” he explained.
“It’s been really eye-opening and fun to see—I was obviously familiar with public health—but just to see what [the health department is] doing first-hand. It’s a cool place to be, and I’m really enjoying it so far,” Francis said.
When asked if he ever saw himself transitioning into such a position, Francis responded, “I think so… Overall, I would say this is my calling, for sure. I’m really glad that it’s happened.”
Asking him the same question as a child would have resulted in a very different answer. At several inches past six feet in height, Francis would likely have made a terrible jockey, and his family members still tease him about his boyhood dream to this day! However, his innate love of animals has obviously spilled over into a love of people and concern for their well being.
Altruistic by nature, Francis recalls always knowing he would find some way of helping others in his life. He credits his mentors at WVU for helping to steer him specifically toward obtaining his MPH, having already demonstrated a strong interest in community health by that time.
Board of Health Chairman Dr. Timothy Kathman, MD, said, “The Board of Health has the utmost confidence that Jordan Francis will continue the tradition of strong leadership, innovative thinking, passion and dedication to the health needs of the Darke County General Health District… We enthusiastically welcome Mr. Francis.”
A native of Sidney, Francis recalls coming to Greenville with his grandparents each Saturday morning to eat breakfast and visit the park. “I remember that was the coolest thing, going to the ‘big city’ park of Greenville and watching the ducks.” Life has brought him full circle as he can now look out his office window at that same park, knowing he helps protect the health of the community it serves.
Francis said, “This community does a really good job of cooperating with one another and working together to make things go right. You see things just work the way they should in a lot of instances.” Francis explained that, even when differences arise, the community is able to work together to find a mutually beneficial way of solving those issues. “It’s good to be a part of that type of collaboration,” he concluded.
Francis currently resides with his family in Englewood, Ohio.
For up-to-date information on local public health, visit Darke County General Health District at darekcountyhealth.org. To learn about Ohio’s early intervention services, visit helpmegrow.org.
Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.