Few people at Long Island University are more vocationally congruent with much of the discourse surrounding the coronavirus pandemic than Heather Butts, Assistant Professor of Health Care Administration and Director of the Honors College at Post.
“I’ve always been interested in the epidemiology of diseases and bioethical issues at it relates to public health,” Butts said. “Anything that has to do with health and protecting people, and doing that on a large scale, interests me.”
Butts, who grew up in Queens, moved 70 miles south after graduating high school to earn her bachelor’s degree at Princeton. She went on to earn a Juris Doctor from Saint John’s University School of Law, a Master of Public Health from Harvard University and a Master of Arts in Psychology in Education. In 2009, she founded H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths, a non-profit that collaborates with schools, community organizations and other non-profits to provide adolescents and young adults with various programs and workshops in the areas of physical health, mental health, social/cultural education and life-skills.
“It’s a labor of love,” Butts said of H.E.A.L.T.H., which that stands for Health, Education, Academic, Life-skills, Training and Help. “We help with young people who were starting that new chapter of their life called adulthood, to help give them the support they are often sorely lacking.”
In addition to her professional expertise in public health, Butts was also well-positioned to serve those in need within the New York City area during the pandemic. As a steward at Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world, helped lead an initiative that stocked canned goods and additional supplies in Little Free Library stations in the New York City area to help provide COVID-19 relief. The laudable work caught the attention of WNBC and PBS NewsHour, which interviewed Butts in a promotional news segments.
“We’re able to do a lot of wonderful projects that involve community outreach and helping other people,” she said. “We’re doing a number of projects from a food security standpoint as well as gardening projects that give back to the community.”
Another role for which Butts is ideally suited is her leadership position with LIU’s Honors College at Post. For the past year, alongside fellow Co-Director Dr. Daniel Hanley, she has helped guide many of the University’s most exceptional students, some of whom are uncertain as to what career path they intend to pursue – a sentiment familiar to her.
“That’s what I love about the Honors College,” she said of the interdisciplinary structure. “After my first year in college, I spent the next three years exploring.” Butts initially hoped to become a surgeon but found herself more interested in healthcare than clinical practice.
“The trajectory that of how I got to where I am wasn’t exactly a linear path, but I’m happy about that,” she said, having worked as a practicing lawyer, award-winning teacher, esteemed academic in-demand speaker and accomplished author. “When I talk to students, it’s not one dimensional.”