Welcoming NCOHC’s New Program Coordinator

This month NCOHC welcomed a new Program Coordinator. As Sarah Heenan joins the team, we sat down with her to ask a few questions about who she is and what brought her to the world of oral health.

Tell us a little about your background, where you are from, and your educational path.

I am from the Washington, D.C. area originally. I moved to Raleigh in 2004 to pursue a degree in history from Peace College, an all-women’s college at the time. I knew that my life’s work would be realized by working with people from all different life experiences, cultures, and backgrounds. Both personally and professionally, my time at Peace College led me down a road through the higher education landscape, helping students navigate their experiences while advancing the mission of the university. This direction helped me see value in gaining my Master of Arts in Higher Education at Appalachian State University, and eventually I ended up at North Carolina State University. There I learned the value of large public land grant institutions and the value of partnership with statewide organizations to provide needed resources to the people of North Carolina. My eyes were opened to the idea of shifting to the nonprofit world, where making a difference and changing necessary landscapes is at the forefront of the work.

What professional accomplishment before coming to NCOHC are you most proud of?

Building many relationships with both internal colleagues and external partners. A recent partnership I am most proud of is the development and management of the Off Campus Consortium group at NC State. I managed relationships between private off-campus partners and the university to provide the most direct and trusting housing resources to students.

What originally drew you to working in the oral health space?

Making a difference in our society by creating change and helping to provide needed services to the residents of North Carolina.

What has been the most rewarding part of your work with NCOHC thus far?

Working with the staff and learning about all of the work the Oral Health Collaborative engages in to create systemic changes in our state.

What are the biggest challenges that you see facing access and equity in oral health care in North Carolina?

Barriers to access due to the social determinants of health.

What do you enjoy doing when not working?

I enjoy spending time getting my hands in the dirt and working to create useful and beautiful garden spaces for my family and friends to enjoy. When I’m not in the garden, I’m generally building useful furniture made out of scrap materials. My two dogs, Oliver and Sage, and my partner, are always along for wherever the adventure may take us. In the time of the pandemic, because travel was not an option, we have enjoyed watching traveling shows and dreaming about getting overseas when it is safe to do so again.

What do you want our membership to know about you?

That I am a passionate individual who loves people and working hard to make systems more efficient.