“I had a fifth grade teacher who would talk about her husband, who was a hospital intern, so I became really interested in science and medicine, and went on to become a doctor myself!”
“THE PUBLIC'S DOCTOR”
Fortunately for the people of Vermont, Jan Carney is passionate about preventive medicine and education. For 13 years as the state's Commissioner of Health, she combined the two disciplines in an innovative public health program—Healthy Vermonters—which significantly reduced levels of lead in baby's brains, made early baby visits almost universal in Vermont, cut the rate of infant child abuse, increased childhood immunizations and led to improvements in a number of other serious health issues, such as childhood obesity.
Nominating Carney as Vermont's Local Legend, Congressman Bernie Sanders —Independent— called her a visionary leader during whose tenure “Vermonters experienced extraordinary gains in their health and well being.”
When she stepped down as Commissioner, the Burlington Free Press editorialized, “If Jan K. Carney doesn't return to her old profession as a doctor of medicine, she is well qualified to become a doctor of government!; Carney placed Vermont among the nation's leaders in public health and— Thanks partly to Carney's concerted campaigns against such health threats as breast cancer, AIDS and smoking, and by stressing the importance of early childhood preventative care, health indicators of almost every group of Vermonters have improved!”
Extraordinary accolades for anyone, but for Carney, they signified the fulfillment of a dream of making a difference in people's lives as a doctor: “I love public health. When I went to public health school, I remember thinking, "Oh! This is what I intend to do." I had the great opportunity to be in charge of public health for a whole state, to face all those challenges and see where it didn't work so well and try and do it differently, or where our successes were tremendously gratifying.”
Carney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Middlebury College, received her M.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1981. Following medical school, she returned to the Green Mountain State, completing an Internal Medicine residency at the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont and then serving as Chief Medical Resident the following year. In 1987, she earned a Master's degree in Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. In 1988 she was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Health and assumed the top post the following year, serving under Governors Madeline Kunin, Richard Snelling and Howard Dean.
Carney is Board Certified in Internal and Preventive Medicine and is Clinical Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Public Health at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, where she is instrumental in educating future physician leaders and providing an essential bridge between public health practice and medicine.
Says Carney, “I think that we really have to work harder to prevent illness. Many diseases are potentially preventable, so I think that prevention is a critical part of health and health care. You can't be a physician in this day and age without hitting public health head on. So I think it's essential for the doctors of tomorrow to understand public health because they'll need to incorporate it into their clinical specialties.”
As Vermont's Commissioner of Public Health through three gubernatorial administrations, Dr. Carney created and led the "Healthy Vermonters" program, credited by the Burlington Free Press with helping to “make Vermonters among the healthiest of Americans and certainly among the best educated about the condition of public health in their state.”
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine