Q&A with a Population Health Specialist

Michael Falcon, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health education, now organizes health education programs for New York City’s homeless population.

One trait has guided Michael Falcon ’17’s athletic performance, classroom accomplishments, and career dedication. That trait is accountability.

Having carried lessons from SUNY Brockport’s wrestling mats and classrooms to New York City health centers, Falcon has worked as a population health specialist for Care for the Homeless since October 2018. The federally qualified health center operates 26 health-care locations.

What is your distinguishing trait?

Accountability. When I was part of the wrestling team (2013-17), Coach Jacoutet (associate head wrestling coach Bill Jacoutet) stressed the value of accountability, especially in a position where you can’t do everything, but you still need to do your best every day for yourself and your team. He used to say that each of us typically has five days a year when you feel 100 percent and it is easy to do your best. The best guys, he said, go in every day and do their best even when they are not feeling 100 percent. It’s up to us to be accountable for showing up on the other days.

What did you like about Brockport?

I am originally from Suffolk County, Long Island. I knew about upstate and Brockport because I have family in Binghamton and visited Brockport with my high school wrestling team. I like Brockport. It’s less busy than where I’m from, and it’s a comfortable community.

I also liked my major — Public Health Education. There is a structure to health education and a code to live up to. There are competencies to achieve to become a certified health education specialist. That means we have to practice what we preach.

Who were you favorite faculty?

Two faculty, Dr. Darson Rhodes, assistant professor, and Dr. Joshua Fegley, assistant professor, stand out. They made it clear what it means to be a health education resource person. A third faculty member, Chris Bazzie, who was director of Environmental Health and Safety at Brockport during my senior year, was as my mentor. We are still in touch.

What does your current job entail?

My role is to reach clients by planning and implementing health education programs through their shelters. Until the COVID pandemic, my team and I offered flu shot drives or breast cancer screenings through mobile mammograms. The goal was to get larger numbers into clinics by creating interesting events, focusing on prevention as medicine, offering pamphlets and other information on nutrition or vaccines. Outreach is a way of building connections to patients.

Since COVID-19, my organization has had to pivot. We have initiated telehealth with the same ideologies but with remote access.

How did Brockport prepare you for this role?

One of my class projects at Brockport was writing a paper on vulnerable populations. I knew I wanted to do something to help, but did not envision myself working with the homeless. Yet, that is what I have ended up doing.

What professional challenges does your organization face?

We continue to operate six clinics and six family centers. While our population is not as tech savvy as the general population, not starting out as able to use tools such as Zoom, they are doing a good job collectively to respond to telehealth. Every team at Care for the Homeless is working to ensure everyone is safe—safe from exposure to COVID and safe from the perils of the streets.

What is the key to success in your profession?

The key to success here is accountability, having a good structure, a good plan, and working hard every day.

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Posted: July 25, 2023