Alesha Lilly, Ph.D.
Behavioral Health Program
28 years of service
Got any favorite quotes?
“You may encounter many defeats, but do not be defeated. Remember that your difficulties do not define you. They simply strengthen your ability to overcome.”
- Maya Angelou
Who inspires you?
Children and families who face incredible adversity and manage to work through it to create a new normal in which they can be a beacon of inspiration and light for others.
What is the most rewarding experience you have had in public health?
Working within the child guidance program, it is an honor to help families who face adversities and see them grow using all available resources whether spiritual, counseling, family support networks or other supports. It is wonderful to see them come through the dark times and blossom as they gain skills and build positive relationships.
How did you start working in public health?
My first job in public health was a summer position with the Eldercare program. While in graduate school at Oklahoma State, I had an internship at the Payne County Child Guidance Clinic where I worked with children and their families to address their emotional and behavioral needs. I loved working with children and families. While applying for residency programs, I became aware of and applied to the psychology residency program within Child Guidance. I was chosen as one of four residents and knew I had found a place where I could make a difference in the lives of children through prevention efforts as well as intervention and give back to my community.
Can you share a few highlights of your experience in public health in Oklahoma? What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Helping to bridge the world of behavioral health to the world of health through conversations around adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). I enjoy being the voice of public health in the world of mental health and feel that by keeping the whole child perspective within the context of their families and communities we can achieve better health outcomes for Oklahoma. Child Guidance’s placement within the health department allows us a unique opportunity to address behavioral and health issues from a prevention perspective or to advance up the continuum all the way through to a treatment and intervention perspective if it’s deemed necessary. It affords a great deal of flexibility and creativity to meet families where they are and make a true difference in their lives.
In your role, how do you educate people about public health?
In my role, I am excited and honored to educate the public and other professionals about ACEs, trauma and its impact, and the importance of attachment and relationship based interventions. Making the connection between public health, ACEs, promotion and treatment is essential to what we must do as a system if we are to help families become more resilient. Education at a universal level is a necessary component of change for our families and communities but often a greater and more intense dosage is required in order to makes lasting and significant change.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
Being part of a large state system, it is often challenging to navigate change. Not being able to directly impact change in the timeframe that I would like and having to wait until the system is ready and able to move forward and implement the change can raise frustration. However, remaining connected and looking for the small changes, which can serve as foundational framework for future change is vitally important. It helps me to understand and remember that at times our job is to plant the seeds for change.
If someone was interested in a public health career, what advice or encouragement would you give them?
- Find the place where you fit, where you can feel connected and ways that you can be helpful to others will follow.
- Be inspired by the people you serve and be an inspiration to your colleagues.
- Be prepared for how long it seems to make change happen but don’t be discouraged by it.
- Surround yourself with others to support your efforts and continue to move your ideas forward one inch at a time if necessary.
- Hold on to your passion and allow it to remind you of why we do this work, which can be so impactful for families and communities.