SXU Nursing Alumna Appointed to Illinois Board of Health
Saint Xavier University (SXU) alum Janice Phillips '85, Ph.D., RN, has been appointed to serve on the Illinois State Board of Health, where she'll advise the director of the Illinois Department of Health in strategic initiatives like policy development, health objectives and quality assurance around access to necessary services.
Phillips, who graduated with her master's degree from SXU, is an accomplished health care and nursing expert, having authored over 100 publications, four edited textbooks and a health policy column. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award and the Nursing Spectrum's Advancing and Leading the Profession Award. Currently the director of nursing research and health equity and associate professor in the College of Nursing at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Phillips is a member of multiple professional organizations and a Public Voices Fellow in the Op-Ed project.
In her position at Rush, Phillips helps to facilitate research and evidence-based practices, staff nurses and help nurses get more involved in creating scholarly products. She also works with experts across the medical center to make sure nurses are involved in helping to carry out strategic initiatives surrounding health equity. Phillips wants to help patients and the people she serves to have a chance in experiencing better health. "I work to identify social needs in addition to medical needs—things like transportation, housing, food security and access to primary care. I want to establish ways to help people get what they need to be healthy or comply with what is recommended for their health and well-being," she said.
Phillips hopes to succeed in her new role by developing more skill in policy analysis. "We need to go back and take a look at what we've established and created and ask if it's working in terms of meeting the objective. I want to apply the health equity lens to our discussions, develop more expertise and utilize it to make sure that what we are doing is working for us. I am excited to engage with my team and serve as an advisory group," she said.
Phillips feels that her time at SXU helped prepare her for the role because of the many principles she learned. "When I got my master's degree in community health at SXU, I learned how to read, apply and conduct research. I completed a research project as my master's thesis and am really glad that I did because I gained a better understanding of why research is important and how it should inform policy. I studied hypertension knowledge and behaviors among patients, and I had to go through the process of making the right contacts, setting up a research proposal and collecting the data. Hands-on experience is very transferrable. If you create a policy, it has to be evidence-informed. I draw on these skills all the time," said Phillips.
One of Phillips' favorite SXU memories includes working with Mary Geis, her community health advisor at that time. "I worked full-time and went to school in the evenings, but I had an excellent academic advisor. That was the most significant part of my time at SXU. She was very supportive, an expert in her field and really wanted to see students succeed. Having someone of that caliber for my academic advisor made my time at SXU excellent."
When asked what advice she has for current SXU students, Phillips said, "What is key is to find what you're most excited about. There are so many things to do in health care, and you might not find that initially, but you have to be willing to do the hard work. When you surround yourself with people who are positive and supportive, you can have an amazing career. You also have to remember that when you have a credential or degree, you have requirements that go along with honoring that obligation. When you're in this kind of arena, lifelong learning is absolutely critical. You won't ever know everything, but it's important to know where to get information. Finally, don't be afraid to take risks. I've relocated and taken on opportunities that seem risky, but I've learned to build on those risks and invest in myself."
Looking to the future, Phillips hopes to become an advocate for those who are underserved—much like SXU's mission of serving the underserved. She is also at work on her memoir. "I want to talk about my journey from foster care to where I am now. We don't always see positive information about those who are wards of the state or in foster care. We don’t hear enough about how they've moved on with their lives and become productive citizens."
Phillips remains thankful to SXU for preparing her for a rewarding career. "My work has been amazing and impactful. I hope it has been inspirational. It has not always been easy, but I can honestly tell you that I could not have asked for a better career. I had no idea what nursing had to offer, and I've been so very blessed to experience everything I have wanted to do—advocacy, research, administration, writing for publications and more. I don't know if everyone can say they are just as excited about nursing as they were the day they graduated, but I can."