We are excited to introduce our 2023 Faculty Excellence Award recipient, Dr. Merle Point-Johnson! She serves as instructional faculty in the healthcare department and has played a critical role in the development of our M.S. in Health Informatics and Master of Public Health programs. Her students describe her as genuine, caring and supportive. We talked with her to learn more about her influential career.
ACE: Congratulations on receiving the 2023 Faculty Excellence Award! What does receiving this award mean to you?
Dr. Merle Point-Johnson (MPJ): Thank you so much! This award holds special meaning for me as I am being recognized by my colleagues for doing the work that I love so much. My teaching philosophy encompasses three principal objectives – to inspire, challenge and empower students to reach their full potential. This award assures me that both my work and my philosophy contribute to positive student outcomes.
ACE: Can you tell us a little about your career and what led you to ACE?
MPJ: For as long as I can remember, I have always had a passion for teaching. Shortly after earning my undergraduate degree, I entered the healthcare field. While working as a plan administrator, I decided that employees could benefit from training, so I developed a training program to teach employees the skills needed to optimize their performance. I found that teaching and witnessing them thriving in their roles was especially rewarding, so I decided to pursue opportunities that allowed me to teach full time. Teaching at ACE has been a wonderful experience, as the culture is embracing and focused on a student-centered approach to learning, and this is beneficial to ensuring positive student outcomes.
I came to ACE after researching various institutions of higher learning. In my research, I found that ACE offered a solid approach to learning. Students often speak of the positive relationships they form with their professors and how those relationships support their decisions. I was also impressed with the stories told by members of ACE’s alumni. I believe it’s among the highest honors that an educator can achieve when their former students speak highly of them.
ACE: What have you enjoyed the most about being part of ACE’s instructional faculty?
MPJ: It’s hard to pick one thing that I enjoy most! I really love the flexibility of my role. I am fortunate enough to teach as well as develop courses. I appreciate the support that I’ve received from my colleagues at ACE from the beginning, and there’s a genuine sense of camaraderie. My role allows me to interact with various individuals from student support to curriculum design and many others. My colleagues at ACE are simply the best!
One of my favorite poets, Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, they may even forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Having said that, my most enjoyable experiences come from my interactions with students. I strive to leave a positive and lasting impact on every student I encounter. I want to make them feel encouraged and motivated.
ACE: Your impressive research includes health policy reform, health equity and the impact of the social determinants of health as it pertains to health outcomes. What led your passion for these topics?
MPJ: During my undergraduate college experience, I became a member of a prominent sorority. While many sororities are limited to the college experience, mine involves lifetime membership. Members volunteer in communities nationwide and in several countries around the world to promote health equity in marginalized communities. I served as a committee chairperson for the annual health fair and during the health fairs, I encountered many individuals who needed health services, but did not have adequate resources or insurance to access the health system. My organization provides volunteer medical, dental, counseling and other necessary services to those who are disenfranchised from the health system. It was through my ongoing volunteerism with my sorority that I became passionate about advocating for reform. I firmly believe that one’s zip code should not determine their health outcomes. This is where my passion for research into the nonmedical factors that affect the health of individuals and communities originates.
ACE: What advice would you give healthcare professionals interested in similar research?
MPJ: My advice to anyone interested in health policy research is to have an open mind. It’s important that we all realize our own privileges. Promoting health equity and advocating for health policies for those who are less fortunate can benefit us all. When it comes to matters as important as health equity, social determinants of health and health policy, we must have a passion and a desire to embrace a cause greater than our own.
American College of Education offers a variety of healthcare programs where you can learn from faculty like Dr. Point-Johnson. Learn more here.