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Six Questions with FreshLink Program Manager Rachael Sommer
Tell me a bit about your work before you joined the PRCHN. Where did you work and what did you do?
I oversaw the Healthy Cleveland Initiative for the Cleveland Department of Public Health. The mission of the Healthy Cleveland initiative is to address all social determinants of health that impact Cleveland stakeholders where they live, work, and play as we leverage policies, partnerships, and programs within our community that enhance quality of life and reduce inequity. It allowed me to work with a broad range of stakeholders to improve population health at all levels of change.

Tell me about your education. Where and what did you study? Is your work here radically different than what you studied in college? In other words, has your career path made any unusual changes?
I received by Bachelor’s in Social Work from Bowling Green State University and I received my Masters of Social Science Administration from the Mandel School of Applied Social Science here at Case. I didn’t realize I would end up working in public health when I became an LISW (Licensed Independent Social Worker) but I am glad I did. I spent some time working for Cleveland City Council under Health and Human Services Chairman Councilman Cimperman, which is really what got me interested in public health and systems change. Public Health is a lot like social work and I think the two fields complement each other.

What aspects of your new position are most intriguing to you? What are you looking forward to?
I am really looking forward to being part of a formal research project. I have not spent a lot of time in my career doing research so I am enjoying the thoroughness of the process and the attention to detail that goes into research planning. Most of all I am excited about the implementation and being in the neighborhoods working with residents and getting stakeholders excited about being able to eat healthy food with the means they have available to them (SNAP benefits).

What are some of your interests outside of work?
I am really into fitness and working out. I have run one marathon and a bunch of half marathons but I am getting a lot more into weightlifting at this point. I love to visit ethnic festivals and experience the diverse culture we have in Cleveland. I am pretty involved in my church and neighborhood and started a "Friends of" group for the park by my house- Jefferson Park where we plan activities to celebrate the park. My next event is a K9 and Kids Egg Hunt on April 1st! Most importantly I love being a mom to my daughter Madeline. We try to travel -even if just road trips in our car and expose her to the world . Our goal is to be able to take her to Australia for our dream trip.

Where did you grow up and where have you settled in Cleveland (I realize these may be identical answers)?
I grew up in Lorain, Ohio, but when I was in middle school my family moved to Medina. While going to Case I fell in love with the excitement and diversity of Cleveland. There’s always something affordable and fun to do all season and there are so many different cultures. it is like travelling the world from home!

Is there anything else that you'd like to share with the PRCHN and its stakeholders?
I really am excited to be part of the team at the PRCHN and I hope I can be of assistance to the various projects and research going on at the PRCHN. I have been involved in many projects and initiatives throughout Cleveland during my career. Chances are I might have a link, connection or contact for you so feel free to bounce ideas off me!
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