1. You’ve been involved in adolescent health for a while now, what is it that keeps you in the field?
I love kids. I raised five of my own and found time to coach Little League and teach Bible classes. During my Peace Corps service in Central Africa, I saw children die, many children. Ever since that experience, my only career focus has been to do what I can to help keep young people healthy. I've had the privilege of working on health promotion activities that I believe have genuinely made schools and communities healthier places for children. There is nothing else I want to do professionally.
2. As the new CEO of the Alliance, what is the first thing on your to-do list?
Job one is digging deeper into and learning more about this amazing organization. I am looking forward to in-depth discussions with senior leaders and reaching out to and getting to know all our staff. Early on, I will have meetings with all board members and funders. An additional important task is ensuring my team of senior staff is operating at full capacity.
3. We’re all about health here at the Alliance, so we must ask, what’s your guilty pleasure?
It’s all about two guys from Vermont, and one of them is named Ben.
4. Are there any developments in the childhood health space that have caught your attention and that you are excited to see continue?
I'm very excited that after so many years of increases in the prevalence of childhood obesity, we are starting to see the rates flatten out, especially in the states and cities that have done the most to promote prevention. There's still so much more work to do, and I am sure the Alliance will make extraordinary contributions to reversing the epidemic.
5. What does Howell Wechsler’s music playlist look like when he’s “getting pumped”?
I start out with some old school, usually Motown and 70’s R&B classics, then toss in some high quality hip hop that my kids have sent me (e.g. Lupe Fiasco), and top it off with a lively Broadway cast album like “In the Heights”…and I will be pumped!
6. What do you think is the Alliance’s strongest quality and how do you hope to make it stronger?
I have no doubt that it is human capital –the extraordinarily skilled and exceptionally dedicated professionals who comprise the staff of the Alliance. I will do all that I can to continue hiring wisely and to work with the Alliance's supervisors to help the staff be as productive as possible.
7. Do you have a personal role model who has influenced or strengthened the passion in which you pursue health and wellness for young people?
Dr. David Satcher, former CDC Director and U.S. Surgeon General, has long been a great role model for me. I so greatly admire his calmness and wisdom, his integrity and humility, his dedication to public service and good science, his commitment to social justice and eliminating health disparities, and his understanding of the profound links between health and education.
Thank you for humoring us, Dr. Howell Wechsler. We welcome you, and hope you have a great first day!