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Monday, April 12, 2021

Mother-daughter committed to public health mission

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Between them, Loretta and Jennifer Conner have nearly three decades of work invested in the Marion County Public Health Department. The mother-daughter duo is among many family combinations working within the health department and corporation.

Loretta, or mom, has been a public health nurse for 21 years, working in schools, clinics, hospitals or wherever the need happens to be. “I listen, and try to educate when I can, so individuals will have a better understanding of their health or social needs. I love the variety this work provides. It fits my personality,” said Loretta.

Jennifer will celebrate her 10th year with the health department in September. Like her mother, the variety offered through her responsibilities as division projects manager makes working at the health department rewarding. “Working with the community, within the health department and being available to go where the need happens to be is a part of my job,” said Jennifer.

Growing up in a household with a mom in nursing had to be an influence, right? “I did not encourage her or discourage her, but I knew (Jennifer) did not have the desire to be a nurse, so working in public health was a natural outcome,” said Loretta.

Jennifer’s initial career interest was medicine. She has not ruled out law school and potentially going into the growing field of public health law.

“I never felt pressure. My mom stressed the importance of health and the importance of taking care of yourself. Most of all, she taught me that medicine, health care and public health are a calling.

Although Loretta works at the Northwest District Health Office, 6940 N. Michigan St., and Jennifer at the Hasbrook building, 3838 N. Rural St., there are some drawbacks to working for the same employer.

“Well, feeling like you’re a little kid-sometimes I get the nagging even here. ‘Do this,’ ‘have you called so and so?’ and the periodic office inspections. It does help that she’s in a different location, but I still have to stay on my toes,” added Jennifer.

In answering the same question, Loretta failed to mention being able to “mother” Jennifer at work as a disadvantage. “There are things we cannot share. Some of our problems are similar and so sometimes there isn’t anything really new to talk about,” said Loretta.

However, the two share an unmistakable desire to help others and support the public health mission.

“Among the many advantages is that we understand and appreciate public health. Jennifer and her generation have a lot of responsibility, and I believe this next group of leaders will accomplish even more than my generation has,” said Loretta.

And if the time comes when Jennifer has children deciding on a career, could there be another generation of Conner’s working for the Marion County Public Health Department?

“Yes, if they express an interest. I’d let them know, as my mom did for me, it’s not necessarily the field you choose if money is what drives you. I want them to have a passion for whatever they do,” said Jennifer.

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