Associate Professor of Community Health Education
Ph.D, University of South Carolina
M.Ed. University of South Carolina
University of Maine at Farmington Professor Maurice ‘Bud’ Martin is not only a teacher but a graduate of UMF’s Community Health Education program who realized his dream of returning to Maine and teaching.
Martin, like many of his students, didn’t start out as a Community Health Education major. Martin discovered the field after an injury sidelined his construction career and sent him back to school. And Martin’s resume serves as an example of how a Community Health Education degree can open many doors. Before coming back to UMF, he worked in elementary physical education, exercise physiology, fitness programming and family counseling, and served as a school health coordinator and as a research scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Who is A Community Health Major?
“Most students find us in their second or third year. They take a couple of Community Health Education courses, and a light goes on,” Martin said. “Right out of the gate, our students have interest in personal health that naturally expands to community heath activities and eventually leads into any number of professions within the field of public health.”
“Community Health Education students are a special group. They won’t take no for an answer, and I love that about them. They demand that their instructors teach them. I can tell a Community Health Education student as soon as they sit in the classroom. They are listening, ready, and they really want to contribute,” Martin said.
“One of the things I like the most about Community Health Education students is that they are so inquisitive and motivated,” Martin remarked. “I don’t have to tell them twice. I respect them too much for that. They are smart enough to get it the first time.”
“At a certain point, my students stop working for me and start working for their community. When they are working for the community and start doing those community service projects they just bloom,” Martin said.
Learning by Helping
Service-learning — learning by helping others — is an integral part of the Community Health Education major, according to Martin. “In our classes, we have students go out into the community, and we have the community come into the classroom. It is seamless,” Martin said. “Last year, in collaboration with State Representative and faculty member Tom Saviello, we had U.S. Senator Susan Collins and the Maine Governor come talk with our students.”
One student assignment is to write testimony on upcoming legislation. Some students will submit their testimony; others will go to the Maine statehouse and testify before legislators. Those experiences make a difference, Martin observed. He and his students also host healthy dinners at local churches as part of diabetes and obesity education programs.
And those experiences inspire students to create their own community service projects. One Community Health Education student started fundraising as part of his plan to start a school lunch program in Sudan, his homeland. Another student helped to author grants that funded Stone Soup Gardens, a sustainable, collaborative community garden in Farmington.
Working Abroad & Rethinking Priorities
Community Health Education students have gone abroad to Peru, Guatemala, Prague and Russia, and the Community Health Education curriculum is flexible enough to help them plan years in advance to accomplish these activities. Martin said he is proud that his students do not isolate themselves on a university campus, but seek out international service-learning projects.
“They go and do some really cool stuff,” Martin said. “One of my students just came back from Peru. She told me she came home, emptied her closet, and sold half her clothes because she had an epiphany where she realized how poor these people were.” That student worked with young children who walked miles by themselves to a school on the outskirts of a huge poverty-ridden city. She and other volunteers provided health resources like toothbrushes, fluoride treatments, vitamins, and hygiene lessons.
Valuable Research Skills
“I’m dedicated to the idea that my job is a mix of teaching, community service and scholarship. Those three things can’t be separated. I think it’s important that my students see that,” Martin said. He always includes students in his research projects so they can develop their scholarship skills.
Recently, Martin and his students were contracted to evaluate the effectiveness of a program, “Healthy Amistad,” a homeless shelter in Portland funded in part by a grant from the Maine Health Access Foundation. The evaluation program resulted in a research paper Martin coauthored with three students.
“All the scholarly works I’ve worked on in the last four years have had student coauthors. I feel that it’s important students participate every time we submit a paper,” Martin said. It’s rare for undergraduate students to publish their research. Martin’s students get a distinct advantage in the academic and professional worlds.
“One student, a brilliant young woman, switched her major to Community Health Education. She did some research about the American Lung Association’s Trek Across Maine looking at whether the event increased physical activity in rural Maine. Her work will be published soon. As a result of her work she ended up going to graduate school at the University of Arkansas with a full scholarship, due in part to her ability to do research,” Martin recalled.
“I would venture to say that our Community Health Education program has the essential elements of many master’s programs in public health and is an excellent stepping off point to graduate school. Most of the students who have gone on to graduate school say that, with the exception of some advanced studies, much of their course work and field work is comparable to the work they did at UMF,” Martin said.
“We know a Community Health Education degree is the entry level requirement in the field of public health, and we’re trying to train professionals who can hit the ground running,” Martin said.
Many Career Choices
“I love working with my students and sharing their success stories. In the last four years, I’ve written more than 100 reference letters for student who are either applying for a job or going to graduate school. Increasingly, folks in the community are calling and asking if we have any more graduates,” Martin noted.
“Over the past few years, we’ve been tweaking the Community Health Education major, and I think we have a unique ability to tap in to all the other disciplines across the campus,” Martin said. “The Community Health Education program will be flexible and provide the needed autonomy for students who are serious about their education and career. We provide the vehicle for them to get where they are going.”
Graduates have worked in physical therapy, epidemiology, health communication and healthcare. Some graduates will pursue careers as state health officials, health teachers, curriculum coordinators, grant writers, healthcare consultants or healthcare advocates. Others could find themselves working for lung associations, heart associations, cancer foundations and healthy community coalitions.
“Students know that the job opportunities are wide open for them. There’s no end to the possibilities,” Martin said. “That’s what attracted me to come here.”
In his spare time, Martin enjoys working with horses. He said people can learn from animals if they are observant. “I really enjoy horse training. In my mind, you can learn everything you need to know about motivating students from observing a talented horse trainer in action,” Martin said.
“My teaching philosophy comes from training horses. I believe you can’t lead a 1,000 pound horse anywhere it doesn’t want to go. As with horses, the only way you can lead strong and willful people is from behind them. You need to get them moving forward mindfully and avoid pushing them into corners that will cause them frustration. I have also learned that you need an environment without corners or ‘barriers’ because if they get stuck in corners, good people, like horses, will fall apart or turn on you. People are like that, and so I get behind them, I motivate, and I round the corners. Eventually, fear and confusion is gone, and collegiality is achieved. I find myself losing students, but gaining colleagues. It’s great,” said Martin.
“The way I look at teaching is — it’s all about rounding the corners. Stay behind students and motivate them around the corners, so they don’t get stuck. And it works. I think we have the success that we do because we create an environment to keep our students moving forward,” he said.