By Jennifer Wilson
I graduated college with a B.S. in Communications and a concentration in Broadcast Communications. While pursuing my degree I worked for a real estate agent, helping to market his listings. I had no real knowledge of or experience in “public relations,” yet that’s what I found myself primarily doing–public relations, community relations and departmental communications, along with some other duties—when I began working in the Rehabilitation Services division of Sarasota Memorial Hospital in 1994 at age 24.
A few years into my career, I was encouraged to join the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) by a co-worker in the hospital’s Marketing and PR department. Membership, she said, would help me with professional development and allow me to network with other local professionals.
The chapter also offered me the opportunity to participate in a mentorship program for new members. I quickly agreed, and, in 1998, was assigned to a fellow healthcare PR professional, Ginya Carnahan, APR, CPRC. Ginya was working at the Suncoast Communities Blood Bank at that time and had extensive healthcare experience–including having worked at South Miami Hospital during Hurricane Andrew!
Over many years of lunches, happy hours, and FPRA events, Ginya became a very good friend and exceptional mentor. Our chapter slowly phased out the mentorship program in the early 2000s, but Ginya and I kept our mentorship and friendship going. She is someone I can always contact with questions, to get input on an idea or to discuss which direction to take. She has been a consummate cheerleader for me throughout my career as I changed jobs, moved up in FPRA leadership and earned my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and my Certified Public Relations Counselor (CPRC) credentials. I am grateful to her in many ways.
And I’m very happy to say that life has come full circle for me: After leaving Sarasota Memorial in 2004, I rejoined the hospital in the Marketing and PR Department this past summer. And our local FPRA chapter revived the mentorship program this year. So I quickly volunteered to be a mentor–in the hope that I will be able to pass on the kind of guidance, support and cheerleading that Ginya has provided me.
In fact, I was just assigned my mentee this week. She’s a newbie in our chapter, like I was in 1998—and I look forward to meeting her soon and beginning to develop our mentor-mentee relationship. I’m excited to think how we’ll both grow from here.
Jennifer Wilson, APR, CPRC, has more than 25 years of Public Relations, Communications, Marketing and Operations Management experience in the healthcare industry. She is currently the Senior Service Line Marketing Specialist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She also has a rich leadership history with the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA), serving on boards at both the local chapter and state levels and as the FPRA State Association President in 2011.
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