One look at the School of Public Health Alumna of the Year Lisa Segler’s strong résumé reveals considerable achievements in the field of public health. What it doesn’t reveal, however, is Segler’s initial career goal was to be an optometrist.
That all changed with a single public health class she took as a prerequisite to get into optometry school.
“As I learned about the power of preventing disease and promoting health, I realized I was on the wrong side of health care,” Segler said. “Most importantly, public health means serving your community, and community means everything to me.”
To the benefit of all Southern Nevadans, Segler has spent the past decade serving this community in a variety of public health roles: instructor, researcher, administrator, and advocate.
Soon after completing her master’s in public health at UNLV in 2011, Segler joined the faculty, teaching Health Across the Lifespan from 2012-16 — ironically, this was the exact same course she took as an undergraduate that steered her toward a career in public health.
Off campus, Segler lent her expertise to several organizations, including the Nevada Public Health Association (where she helped create a mentorship program to develop public health students and professionals across Nevada); Immunize Nevada (for whom she spearheaded original research projects to improve health outcomes related to vaccinations); and Three Square food bank (where as director of strategic initiatives she works to end hunger for the community’s senior population, as well as connect the community to long-term services aimed at reducing the barrier to health inequities).
While building her team and establishing her mission at Three Square, Segler finished her doctorate in public health at UNLV in 2019. Her continued devotion to the well-being of all Clark County residents can be found in her volunteer work with the Junior League of Las Vegas, the Leadership Foundation of Greater Las Vegas, and as immediate past president of the Nevada Public Health Association.
What did you learn from your time at UNLV that has helped you persevere as a public health official facing the challenges of a deadly global pandemic?
Public health crises, such as hunger relief, don’t take the weekends off. This means working long hours and having really hard days. I’ve learned to be relentless in helping others, quickly recharge my own batteries, and show up again like it’s the first time I have helped someone. My time at UNLV has taught me to never give up and never stop fighting, and that advocating for vulnerable populations is always worth it — everyone deserves health and happiness.
During the last several months, we’ve seen numerous examples of teamwork at its finest. In what ways did UNLV’s School of Public Health teach you the value of teamwork?
It taught me that our teams involve the entire community, not just the coworkers with whom we work every day. Whether we’re collaborating with a nontraditional organization outside of our sector, other local public health entities, or members of a specific population, teamwork is essential to accomplishing our goals because lives depend on it.
For example, when the coronavirus hit, the ability for seniors in our community to obtain food changed nearly overnight. With one call from the Regional Transportation Commission to Three Square asking how they could help, my team was able to immediately set up an emergency home-delivered grocery program. This nontraditional partnership delivered groceries to thousands of seniors in the first two months of the pandemic. Without nontraditional teamwork, this wouldn’t have been possible.