Meet Dr Gail Cummins who is a lecturer in Health Promotion at Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Gail is also an IUHPE Registered Health Promotion Practitioner.
What inspired you towards a career in health promotion?
Health and wellbeing have always been high on my agenda and I knew from an early age that I was destined to work in this area. During my teens, I lost someone very close to me due to cancer; when something like that happens, it reminds you how precious life is and how important it is to look after your health. After my Leaving Certificate, I completed a degree in Health Science and Physiology. Whilst I was fascinated to learn about the anatomy and physiology of the human body, I was really intrigued and wanted to gain a more in-depth understanding of health promotion. So, the obvious next step for me was to complete a degree in Public Health and Health Promotion. I’m a great advocate of lifelong learning and I’m also quite an ambitious person, so fast forward 12 years……. I have now completed an M.Sc. Ph.D. and Postdoc in Health Promotion.
What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?
My job can be quite varied, which makes it all the more interesting and enjoyable. I work in the Dept. of Nursing and Health Studies at Letterkenny Institute of Technology, so the core of my work is delivering health promotion lectures and workshops to General, Psychiatric and Intellectual Disability nursing students and to Health and Social Care students. On any given day you could also find me tucked away in my office writing funding application for health promotion research, reviewing articles for journals or advising postgraduate students (on the M.Sc. in Advancing Health and Social Care and the M.Sc. in Therapeutic Interventions for Alcohol and other Drugs) on their dissertations.
In the Dept. of Nursing and Health Studies, we like to practice what we preach. Therefore, throughout the academic year, we run a number of health promotion events with the guidance of Dr. Louise Mc Bride, Head of Dept. These events are not only for the Institutes’ students and staff but are also for the benefit of our local community. Our last event in April was to mark World Health Day. On the day, a range of guest speakers talked about their personal journeys to better health. Our Health and Social Care students created health stands on a range of topics whilst our nursing students offered free BP and BMI checks. We rounded off what was a very successful day with a physical activity session on the front lawn of the college. Even some of our managers were spotted down running through hoops and participating in the tug of war!
World Health Day events were a great opportunity to showcase our new and improved fitness levels. During March, staff and students in the Department joined teams to increase their step count as part of our Marchathon initiative. Running health promotion events, such as this, throughout the year provides an ideal opportunity not only to promote the health and wellbeing of students and staff; it also allows students to apply theory to practice. Once the examination period is over, my colleagues and I will be heading to Sligo to participate in MECC (Making Ever Contact Count) training. This is a wonderful initiative and we are very excited about introducing it into our range of degrees next year. For me, health promotion doesn’t just end at the college gates, therefore I always try to benefit my local community in some small way through my volunteering work. I’m very privileged to be part of the Dromahair Ladies GFA and to work alongside my husband and daughter coaching the u12 girls Gaelic team. This provides an ideal opportunity to plant a seed in young minds about the importance of physical activity and wellbeing in a fun and engaging manner.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in a career in health promotion?
Network, network, network. We have a very supportive community of practice both nationally and internationally. We are all here to help, support and learn from each other, so avail of every opportunity. I was very lucky early in my career to have an opportunity to carry out research with Prof. Saoirse Nic Gabhainn and the team in the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUIG. This was an invaluable experience for me to learn from someone whom I consider is at the forefront of our discipline. Not only did it give me a firm foundation to develop my career, it also provided an opportunity to gain wonderful friends and colleagues for life!
What does AHPI membership mean for you?
Membership means everything! It provides a valuable opportunity to be part of a network of skilled and experienced health professionals in Ireland. It’s also a great way to keep up to date with what’s happening in health promotion, to avail of CPD opportunities, and to help shape the future of health promotion in Ireland. As a lecturer, I'm always striving to keep up to date with new policies and strategies and I find the regular updates from AHPI keeps me in the loop.
What does being a IUHPE Registered Health Promotion Practitioner mean for you?
I consider professional registration a significant step in the right direction. When the register opened, I didn’t hesitate to apply for this internationally recognised accreditation. Registration provides me with a platform to engage with my international counterparts through the sharing of ideas, information, and experiences. It also provides an invaluable opportunity to participate in IUHPE activities and to make a contribution to the world of health promotion.
What is your proudest working moment?
I’ve been very lucky in life to have worked on a myriad of interesting projects with some incredible people. Working in the field of Health Promotion has opened many doors for me and has literally taken me around the world. However, the proudest moment for me is always on graduation day. Seeing our nursing students and our health and social care students graduating and feeling that I’ve had a very small part in their undergraduate and postgraduate journey is a very fulfilling experience. Knowing how committed and passionate these young professionals are about promoting health and wellbeing….then I can say without hesitation, that the future of health care looks bright!