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Dr. Williamson Transforms Health Care as Nurse and Public Health Advocate

NYMC Alumna Leslyn Williamson, M.S.N., M.P.H. '04, D.N.P., RN, Climbs the Health Care Ladder to Give Back to Her Community

July 05, 2024
Leslyn Williamson, M.S.N., M.P.H. ’04, D.N.P., R.N.
Leslyn Williamson, M.S.N., M.P.H. ’04, D.N.P., R.N.

Dr. Williamson regularly witnessed the disparities in treatment of the Black community as a nurse in New York. These experiences reminded her of her grandmother’s words of wisdom, “You have to speak up and help each other. You have to be the voice for those who cannot help themselves.” After four years as a nurse, she put actions behind her grandmother’s advice and enrolled in New York Medical College’s (NYMC) Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) program with a concentration in health policy and management to be equipped with the skills to advocate for equitable health care policies. "Focusing on public health was essential for me to give back to my community," Dr. Williamson explains. "Health care professionals must look at every patient equitably no matter the color of their skin. Ensuring safety and quality of care should always be our priority."
Dr. Williamson’s public health education taught her the importance of health care workers being present in communities to mitigate challenges and disparities. "I gained the skills to analyze data, understand why specific populations are impacted by certain challenges and brainstorm ways to change the outcomes of those challenges," she says. 
When applying for her previous role as chief operating officer (COO) and chief nursing operator (CNO) for Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, New York, she was told her M.P.H. degree made her stand out from other applicants because of the health care needs in the Schenectady community. Her degree also proved to be invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Dr. Williamson’s leadership, testing sites were set up at strategic locations across Schenectady for maximum community access. "This experience taught me the importance of being involved in the community as a public health professional," she says. 
Today, Dr. Williamson is the COO for Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center and Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center, and the CNO for both hospitals. In these roles, she manages the entire nursing body, oversees nine departments, and is responsible for managing shared service relationships with key external vendors. She gives credit to her M.P.H. degree in health policy and management from NYMC for getting her to this point in her career.
"My degree in public health has given me a seat at the table and the knowledge to help communities navigate different challenges," Dr. Williamson says.