(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles by the GFWC Woman’s Club of Ripley recognizing women community leaders.)
When Amy Haskins’s dream of becoming a dancer was sidelined by an injury in her senior year at George Mason University in Virginia, she used her drive and determination to forge another path.
“I wanted so badly to sing and dance on Broadway,” Haskins said. “But I couldn’t let that injury destroy me. Looking back, it led me to the career I’m in now.”
Haskins, who became administrator of the Jackson County Health Department in July 2016, admittedly took a winding road that led her to her present position.
“As a dance and choreography major, I was very conscious of how the body works,” Haskins stated. “After my injury, I realized how important massage was to my recovery. So I became a licensed massage therapist.”
While in Virginia, she wanted to start corporate wellness programs but met with resistance.
“This was in the 1990’s and interest wasn’t there,” she recalled.
Becoming more interested in physiology and wellness programs, Haskins attended Ball State University in Indiana where she got her master’s degree in Health Promotion and Wellness Management.
“I almost had my masters in gerontology,” she said. “But I was married by then and he was in Washington D.C while I was in Indiana. I decided I needed to go to D.C.”
No matter what part of the country she was living in, Haskins found herself moving forward in her field.
“I had an internship at Inova Hospital Systems, which is a huge system in Northern Virginia,” she said. “During that time, I finally got to work with a community wellness program.”
At the same time, she also worked for Hallmark.
“I really wanted to work with design, but I ended up in the lighting department,” Haskins said with a laugh. “I’d s till love to write cards for them.”
Fast forward to 2002 and the Haskins family, which now included their first child, moved to Ripley.
After being hired at the
health department in 2007 as Public Health Educator, Haskins wrote grants, designed classes and activities such as Health Fair Fun Day. Seeing how drugs were making a big impact in the community, her sights became set on attacking this problem.
“I wrote a federal grant in 2009 and became Director of the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition,” she said. “Prior to the coalition, there was very little discussion about substance abuse.”
The coalition may be one her biggest passions.
“We’ve established communication between adults and youth,” Haskins said. “We’ve seen a large decrease in youth abusing prescription drugs. The coalition worked with the Legislature to ban synthetic drugs. We’ve purchased two drop boxes for people to leave unwanted medication. And we were the first county to have an incinerator to burn collected medication.”
As for the future, Haskins said her plans for the Health Department “have to be fluid.”
“The needs of a community change yearly. Working with those changing needs and being able to adjust are strengths of the wonderful staff and Health Department board.” she said. “I am so privileged to be surrounded with the best people in the world.”
When looking back at the steps that have brought her to her position in the community now, Haskins says she owes a lot of the credit to her family.
“My parents, Gary and Debbie Higginbotham and my husband, Jeff, have always supported me, no matter how crazy the idea,” she said. “And my kids, Tyler, Brett and Aubrey, are my inspiration. I am constantly amazed at their determination, perseverance, work ethic and their ability to laugh and forgive quickly.”
As for the future, Haskins doesn’t know where that will lead.
“I’ve enjoyed raising my kids in this community,” she said. “But I want them to know that they have to be happy in whatever job they choose. And that it’s ok if your dreams change as you grow older. Mine did.”
For articles on two other health care leaders of the community, Jackson General Hospital Director, Stephanie McCoy and Dr. Ashley Staunton, DDS, visit the Ripley Woman’s Club Facebook page.