After years of guiding undergraduate students toward their careers in public health, academic adviser Guy Smalley retires at the end of this month.
While many of his retired friends express concern for youths’ work ethic, Guy Smalley finds hope: Hope in the drive and energy of the public health students he has advised to make a difference in the world by improving overall health outcomes. Smalley will take that hope into retirement at the end of December.
Smalley’s career in public health began in the late 1980s in northern Arizona where he directed a community-based diabetes program with the White Mountain Apache Tribe. As a person with Type 1 diabetes, he was a great candidate to spearhead the program.
“Tribal health directors knew that I would sometimes come in and meet with patients and just talk to them a little bit about my experiences with diabetes,” Smalley said. “They knew about my background and interests. … I did that for over 15 years.”
With Smalley’s leadership, the program increased diabetes awareness and shared prevention information. He helped establish a fitness center and produced an award-winning video in Apache on exercise and diabetes.
“The thing that makes my job is every student has their own story. It’s really interesting to learn what that is and how they’re perceiving what they are and what their possibilities could be. I always get energized by that.” — Guy Smalley
After graduating with a Master’s in Public Health from The University of Arizona in 1998, Smalley sought a fresh start in Columbus. That year, he, along with retired professor Randi Love, PhD, helped expand smoke-free public spaces with the Tobacco-Free Collaborative—increasing smoke-free public places beyond two restaurants when he arrived.
Smalley became a Buckeye in 2003 as an adviser in the Exploration Program, and later in human nutrition at the College of Education and Human Ecology. In these days prior to advising public health students, Smalley found himself recommending public health to undecided students.
“I would talk to students a lot about health-related majors and I would say, ‘You might want to consider public health when you go on to grad school,’ because there was no option here for an undergraduate degree,” Smalley said.
It wasn’t long before that option became available at Ohio State. In 2011, Smalley became the first academic adviser for the College of Public Health’s new Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree program, allowing him to merge his public health and academic advising backgrounds.
“The thing that makes my job is every student has their own story,” Smalley said. “It’s really interesting to learn what that is and how they’re perceiving what they are and what their possibilities could be. I always get energized by that.”
Throughout Smalley’s career, he has also worked with the American Heart Association and advised Ohio State’s College Diabetes Network chapter in its early days.
“When I think back on it, it would’ve been bizarre for me to even think I would be not in Arizona; that I’d be in Columbus, Ohio, and I would be an adviser for undergraduate students in public health,” Smalley said. “If somebody told me that, I’d say ‘No way. That could never happen.’ Yet here I am. It’s pretty amazing!”