The mothers, the millennials, and the mavens. Changing our communities.
This is our seventh annual unveiling of 50 amazing women who are raising the bar in their communities, serving as beacons of light in their industries, and forcing change for the greater good. Meet this West Virginia Wonder Woman, Cathy Slemp, and many more that are creating a better West Virginia with their can-do attitudes and Mountain State spirit.
Boosting Public Health
Cathy Slemp came into the public eye when COVID-19 hit. When she was called from private practice in November 2018 to serve as West Virginia’s public health officer, it was an invitation back—she’d done the job from 2002 to 2011 under governors Bob Wise and Joe Manchin following eight years in other roles at the Bureau for Public Health (BPH).
A Duke University–trained medical doctor, Slemp came fresh off a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 1994 to found the BPH’s Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and, later, the Center for Threat Preparedness. Those two modernization strengthened public health response to everything from disease outbreaks to industrial accidents to natural disasters, making all West Virginians safer. After two decades of service to the BPH, Slemp made a graceful exit when the governor, with little explanation, called for her departure in June. Senator Manchin thanked her publicly and expressed respect, highlighting her crucial role as the state received victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Others noted advancements in immunization, family planning, and addressing the substance use epidemic.
Slemp is now using her voice to advocate for strengthening public health. “It’s time not only to rebuild capacity lost, but to rethink development of healthy communities.” Slemp is exploring exciting futures from the local to the global arena. “What excites me is joining others, identifying our gifts and assets, and applying them collectively to a common vision,” she says. “It’s creating opportunity for individuals, organizations, and communities to grow and change.”