I AM SNMA: Lisa F. Waddell, M.D., M.P.H.

Rachel D. Maree, M.P.H.
JSNMA Student Editor
MD Candidate 2012, Medical University of South Carolina

Dr. Lisa F. Waddell is the first African-American and the first woman to hold the position of Deputy Commissioner for Health Services for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).  A preventive medicine and public health board certified physician, Dr. Waddell received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, her medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia (currently known as Virginia Commonwealth University), and her Master of Public Health Degree with a concentration in Health Policy and Administration from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health.  She also graduated from the  Centers for Disease Control’s National Public Health Leadership Institute.

Prior to becoming Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Waddell held several other positions within DHEC and also served as Deputy Health Director for the Richmond City Health Department in Richmond, VA.  She is a member of several professional organizations and boards, some of which include the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Board of Directors for the American Heart Association, the Board of Directors of the Columbia, South Carolina Area March of Dimes, and also serves as Chair of the Senior Deputy Committee of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO).

Dr. Waddell cites her interest in science at a young age as one of the major influential factors in her decision to pursue a career in medicine.  While training to be an internist, Dr. Waddell realized that many of her patients’ illnesses could have been prevented with appropriate and earlier medical care and lifestyle interventions.  This led to an increasing interest in how access to care, systems of health care and primary care could be improved to have a positive effect on patient outcomes.  As a result, Dr. Waddell decided to pursue an additional residency in preventive medicine and public health.

In her current position, Dr. Waddell works with various local organizations and professionals on projects focused on addressing the local shortage of public health professionals, optimizing the opportunities presented with the Affordable Care Act, particularly around preventive and public health initiatives, and ensuring the provision of public health services in a time of stretched financial resources.   She also plays an instrumental role in other statewide initiatives related to childhood obesity, decreasing infant mortality rates, reducing health disparities, addressing stroke systems of care, and cancer and tobacco prevention.

Dr. Waddell’s motivation and commitment to the fields of preventive medicine and public health have allowed her to receive much recognition and numerous awards, some of which include the Woman of Achievement Award from the South Carolina Governor’s Commission on Women (2000), the Power to End Stroke Ambassador Award from the American Stroke and Heart Association (2007), the Noble J. Swearingen Award from ASTHO (2009),  the J. Marion Sims Award for meritorious Achievement in Public Health from the South Carolina Public Health Association and numerous other local awards.

As a preventive medicine and public health professional, Dr. Waddell encourages future physicians to consider a career in public health because of the large impact one can have on communities and the population as a whole in addition to individual patients.  Dr. Waddell is excited about the progress in health care that preventive medicine and public health have made in decreasing morbidity and mortality rates and encourages students to explore the many avenues and career opportunities that preventive medicine and public health can offer.  When asked about any advice she may have for burgeoning medical professionals, Dr. Waddell encouraged students to find two to three mentors to help guide them through their academic career and to become involved in the community to gain exposure to various types of careers in different settings. Dr. Waddell enjoys spending time with her family, walking, playing the piano and traveling in her spare time.

Filed Under: Inside SNMA

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