The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement recently celebrated the extraordinary career and countless contributions to public health of Suzanne McCarthy, who is retiring as ACHI’s director of governmental affairs and founding senior associate.
Coworkers, colleagues, friends, and family members paid tribute to McCarthy at a private gathering Thursday, July 18. ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson told the guests that McCarthy is leaving “a hole that will never be filled.”
“I don’t think people realize how much effort Suzanne puts in over at the Legislature,” he said. “We don’t provide money to people’s campaigns, we don’t lobby, we don’t have anything other than information with which to get people’s attention. Consistently now for over a decade, you’ve been in that space and the staff, the governor’s team, the legislators have looked to you. We’re going to sorely miss your day-to-day presence.”
“It is an honor to have been part of the group that founded ACHI,” McCarthy said. “Our goal was to create an institution that would work to advance the health and well-being of all Arkansans, and guess what? We’ve succeeded.”
She named several sate accomplishments that ACHI had a hand in, including the Clean Indoor Air Act, the tobacco tax increase that funded a statewide trauma system and other health programs, the statewide fluoridation law, the childhood obesity initiative, the innovative Medicaid expansion program, and the Arkansas All-Payer Claims Database.
“Have we solved all the health inequities in Arkansas? No, not yet. But we’re trying,” she said. “We have helped to make our systems stronger, more efficient, and better, and that’s worth celebrating tonight, because we all did it together.”
ShaRhonda Love, executive director of the Arkansas Minority Health Commission and the wife of state Rep. Fred Love, presented McCarthy with a citation and state flag from the Arkansas House in recognition of her decades of service to public health in Arkansas.
McCarthy received her bachelor’s degree from Downstate Medical Center in New York and her master’s degree in from Boston University. She received her master of public health degree as the first graduate of the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at UAMS.
Before coming to Arkansas, McCarthy worked as a registered nurse at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.; a nursing instructor and coordinator at Whidden Memorial Hospital in Everett, Mass.; a nurse consultant at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in Marthas’ Vineyard, Mass.; a clinical instructor at Northeastern University in Boston; a nurse consultant at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, England; and an obstetrical parent educator at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.
In Little Rock, McCarthy has been a perinatal clinical nurse specialist and consultant at Doctors Hospital; a community educator at Westside YMCA; an independent nursing consultant at Arkansas Children’s Hospital; an independent consultant to the Parenting from Prison Project at the Centers for Youth and Families; a managed care coordinator at Healthsource Arkansas; and an instructor and applied projects facilitator at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She helped found ACHI in 1998 and was its longest-serving employee.