Stephen P. Sowulewski, MA
Associate Professor & Department Chair of Health
J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
Q. Tell us what you do in your daily work.
A. As a professor I am at the center of pedagogy, but aside from my college student population, I consider myself a purveyor of health to my family, friends and colleagues alike. I split my time between classroom teaching and distance learning as well as hybrid instruction which espouses a 50% face to face component and a 50% online component.
Q. What does Men’s Health mean to you?
A. Men’s health is more than just a gender difference in how clinicians treat us, it cuts to the core of being able to “accept intel” from everyone who cares for us and wants us to enjoy good health and longevity. In other words, it’s okay to lean on those in our inner-circle for sage advice so we can be better stewards of our health on all fronts (physically, mentally, spiritually, socially, emotionally, and occupationally)
Q. How did you get started in the field of public health or men’s health?
A. I worked under a grant funded by HUD and Synergy Medical Education Alliance that provided indigent inner-city residents in my native Saginaw, MI with resources and access to visiting homecare for those residing in apartment high rises. Shortly after that position, I earned my master’s degree in health promotion and public health from Central Michigan University and decided to set my sights on academe. My interest in men’s health stemmed from my father’s trials and tribulations with prostate cancer and testicular anomalies. In 2006 I began to teach a men’s health course at the University of Richmond and from there I simply knew that I wanted to be a part of the men’s health cause. In my PhD program I decided to complete my externship at the Men’s Health Network (MHN) which exposed me to the inner-workings of policy and advocacy on Capitol Hill.
Q. What are your goals to improve men’s health? How are you working toward those goals?
A. My over-arching goal is to bring awareness to younger men (college-aged) about their health so they can take better preventive care in their middle-age years and into older adulthood by helping to forestall ill-health. In order to best reach out to students with the message of men’s health awareness, I decided to launch a men’s health course online in the spring of 2012 at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College so I could better serve not only those in the Richmond region but those who may not reside in the state of Virginia. A secondary goal is to continue providing a Men’s Health Forum for the Richmond region. I facilitated the first forum at J. Sargeant Reynolds in June of 2011 and I want to revisit this each and every year. These forums provide a sense of community involvement and help to bring groups into the college who may otherwise be unwilling to attend. By coalescing men from varying backgrounds, we will be able to better serve a number of target populations.
Q. What challenges have you faced when reaching out to men and how did you overcome them?
A. When I held my first men’s health forum at JSRCC in June of 2011 we had lower numbers that I had anticipated. This left me a bit disillusioned as to the motivation to continue this effort. To my chagrin the support garnered from those in attendance has given me a more optimistic outlook going forward. For example, I learned what worked and didn’t work from a marketing standpoint. Thus, I am confident that I will be able to pull in stronger numbers in the years ahead. Positive feedback is a powerful thing, it seemed bleak but I simply reminded myself that this was a “pilot test” and first-time events always require a little bit of flexibility in order to work out the kinks.
Q. How have you been involved in the Men’s Health Caucus? How have you benefitted from being a member of the caucus?
A. I have been part of the caucus since its inception. I was approached by Scott Williams and Jimmy Boyd of the Men’s Health Network a few years ago and welcomed the opportunity to be a part of a cadre of professionals spanning the ranks of public health, academia, and medicine. By forming this caucus we now have a real voice in the APHA and have positioned ourselves to be a major force in the coming years. My role as an academic has allowed me to introduce this caucus to my students and encourage them to be a part of this most important group of individuals, especially since Richmond, VA is so very near Washington, DC. Some of my students are looking for opportunities to immerse themselves in organizations so they have some real world experience and I want to be the conduit to help them connect to these resources at MHN as well as many other avenues offered. I personally have benefited by networking with others in the caucus and I look forward to helping to play a role in the planning for our caucus meeting at the APHA 140th Annual Meeting and Expo in October of 2012.
Q. Share a unique or fun fact about yourself? Or tell us about an interesting hobby that you have.
A. I started modeling when I lived in Florida and (continue to do so in VA) and have graced the pages of American Baby, Crayola Kids and Virginia Living.