Interview with WPI Alumna, Fern Webb

This month WPI ’10 cohort members, Fern Webb and Caroline Brinton, caught-up for an interview. Dr. Fern Webb, Ph.D.,WPI ’10, is a faculty member of the UF College of Medicine Department of Community Health and Family Medicine and an active member of the UF Urban Health Alliance. Her extensive research includes examining intrinsic motivation within the context of multi-dimensional, choice-driven wellness for African-Americans.

Fern’s published work focuses on holistic health programs, effective community engagement strategies, and patient-centered medical models. Her professional skills include epidemiological designs and methodology and community engagement strategies. Along with serving on academic, civic, and educational boards and councils designed to improve health outcomes and life quality, Fern acts as a reviewer for leading academic and scientific journals.

Fern is active in the philanthropic sector, serving as a Member of Jacksonville’s NAACP Branch’s Health Committee, Darnell Cookman Middle/High School for the Medical Arts’ School Advisory Council, Board Member of 2nd Mile Ministries, and Task Force Member & Co-Chair (Research Committee) of the City of Jacksonville’s Community Based Crime Reduction Program. Nationally, she is a Founding Member of the Minority Women in Research Network and a Member of the National Institute of Health’s Network of Minority Health Research Investigators. Fern is also a Diamond Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated.

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Q: What do you do in your daily life?

A: As a Black woman of Christian faith, I am incredibly blessed to be a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, Soror, and friend. I am the youngest daughter of two wonderful individuals, Owen and Elizabeth Jureidini, who I interact with daily even though we live miles apart. I also am blessed to be married to my husband, Kermit, and we have two sons, Kustarr and Kowen, who are already teenagers. Thus, my personal daily life activities include raising our two teenage sons, along with my husband for almost 26 years, to be independent, loveable, and loving Black men. I enjoy contributing to their development to excel academically and athletically, while also instilling the importance of giving back to our community through philanthropy. In essence, my daily life is filled with interacting with those I love and those who love me, which is fulfilling.

My professional daily life is also fulfilling. As a public health expert, 100% of my work is designed to improve health. As an epidemiologist, I lead research or collaborate with other health experts to study diseases like cancer, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. I also work on projects to understand the best strategies to recruit diverse populations into research or deliver health via technology. Thus, my daily professional life is filled with a myriad of activities related to the entire spectrum of conducting research. On any given day, I may: meet with key stakeholders to develop and implement innovative and novel ideas and approaches to study health, write a research proposal for funding or ethics approval, lead a community engagement team to inform, recruit eligible persons to take part in one of the ongoing research projects, lead or contribute to research evaluation, or write reports to share information with anyone interested in the findings of our work.

I also have the opportunity to work with leaders and community members from various organizations committed to creating a healthy, vibrant Jacksonville for all to live and grow. My days are frequently filled with attending a community-organized event (virtually since COVID-19) to learn how I can personally or professionally improve while contributing to our community’s wellbeing in general.

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Q: You are a faculty member at the UF College of Medicine Department of Community Health and Family Medicine and member of the UF Urban Health Alliance. What do you want our community to know about health disparities relating to COVID-19?

A: It is essential to:

  1. Follow public health safety guidelines issued by leading authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Pay attention to information shared from trusted leaders and medical experts as new information about COVID-19 becomes available.
  3. Share what you’ve learned with your loved ones.

Specifically, wear masks when around individuals you are not normally around (i.e., individuals you do not live with), practice social distancing, and strongly consider taking the vaccine when it comes available to you. That way, the overall COVID-19 infection and death rates, especially among our community members and their families most impacted, decrease.

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Q: What is a lesson you’ve learned about building a stronger community?

A: There are so many lessons I’ve learned about building a stronger community. For example, one lesson is that community extends beyond physical and geographical boundaries; in fact, communities are defined in so many ways – the individuals we work with, where we live, what businesses and organizations we frequent, and where we go to school and worship. Another lesson for building a stronger community is acknowledging that each community has assets and strengths that must be valued and appreciated, serving as a starting point for any community-engaged partnership. Another lesson I’ve learned is to honor when I am accepted into the various communities, recognizing that I am, at first, a guest, striving to become a true friend and family member to/of that community.

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Q: Whom do you consider to be your role models for giving?

A: My parents are unquestionably my first role models! As Jamaican immigrants, my parents practiced giving by sharing their time, talents, and treasures. Whether with an organized effort or just volunteering to help others in need, my parents actively served others when we lived in New York City and Ft. Lauderdale. My husband is also a role model to me since he actively gives his time, talents, and treasures in service to our community. He volunteers to tutor youth in math and chemistry, he mentors high school boys on life decisions, and he returns tithes and offerings to our faith-based partners.

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Q: What concepts or experiences from participating in the Weaver Philanthropic Initiative (WPI) have proven valuable to your philanthropy?

A: One invaluable concept I learned from participating in WPI is that philanthropy, no matter in what form or how much, is valued and appreciated. I learned that my philanthropic efforts do make a positive impact and that contributing, whether volunteering my time, talents, or treasures, can be significantly impactful. The key is to be philanthropic in some way and be consistent about it.

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Q: Do you tend to favor contributing any particular combination of social, moral, intellectual, reputational, or financial capital in your philanthropy? If so, why?

A: While I contribute social and financial capital, I favor contributing my time and talents since, at one point, my financial capital was limited. As a result, I was unable to pay for memberships into associations that required a membership fee. However, I found significant value and acceptance when I volunteered my time or talents, like helping to feed the homeless or assisting a small nonprofit organization in writing a proposal to fund their youth initiatives and programs. Even though I now contribute more financial capital to several organizations, I get significant enjoyment when volunteering my time and talents to others’ efforts or work.

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Q: Have you and your family found new ways to connect with and support your favorite nonprofits during the challenges presented over the past 12 months?

A: The new way we’re learning to connect is via a virtual environment. Many organizations in which we volunteer now offer services in a virtual environment, which is certainly a different perspective for me being a community engagement researcher and advocate. My sons’ previous philanthropic support involved donating parts of their allowances or possessions to causes they found important because they are often too young to volunteer. The current pandemic has limited our ability as a family to support nonprofit organizations outside of the home, although my boys are now old enough.

We support our favorite nonprofit organizations by attending their events virtually, promoting their activities with other interested or eligible individuals, and donating funds when/if requested. One of our goals is to volunteer our time to support our favorite nonprofits, such as feeding those that struggle with food insecurity or participating in “community clean up days” once the pandemic decreases.