As valued partners in the vision and the work of TSET, I want to let you know that after 14 fulfilling years as TSET’s first Executive Director, I will step down on January 6, 2017.
It has been a pleasure meeting and working with John Woods, who was hired as the new executive director by the TSET Board of Directors in November. He has been on board for the past few weeks, and we are enjoying our time together, working to ensure a smooth transition for TSET.
We are at an important point on our journey to fulfill the vision of TSET, to improve the health and quality of life of every Oklahoman. I’m proud of TSET, our accomplishments and our shared work together. As I look to the next chapter of my life, I am excited about TSET’s future and the health improvements that are sure to come.
When I announced in 2016 my intention to retire, I knew the Board of Directors would be thoughtful in their approach in hiring a new executive director. Today, I’m happy to say that I have great confidence in John’s leadership and believe he will continue to keep the promise of TSET, working in partnership with a variety of organizations and individuals to create a healthier Oklahoma for generations to come.
During my time at TSET, I have been honored to shepherd our flagship initiative to prevent and reduce tobacco use and tobacco-caused diseases. Built layer-by-layer over TSET’s first decade, our collective success reduced adult smoking to a historic low, cut youth tobacco use in half and encouraged record numbers of quit attempts among tobacco users. In addition, more Oklahomans – smokers and nonsmokers alike – support smokefree environments and high cigarette prices than ever before. Oklahomans understand that these policies are highly effective at reducing youth smoking, and we can all agree that we want a better future for our children.
Even in the face of these historic achievements, the tobacco industry’s efforts have not let up, and smoking remains Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death. If we are to achieve our ultimate goal of becoming one of the healthiest states in the nation, we must redouble our efforts to drive down our state’s high smoking rates.
In recent years we’ve expanded the lessons learned in tobacco to our efforts to prevent obesity and promote health and wellness in communities, worksites, schools and health systems.
TSET’s investments in cancer research and regenerative medicine have recruited new high-caliber scientists and made it possible for Oklahomans of all ages to receive the life-saving treatments they need right here at home.
In addition, although we have a severe shortage of physicians in rural areas of our state, Oklahomans today have greater access to preventive clinical services as a result of TSET-funded initiatives. As a result of TSET’s program investments, we are successfully expanding rural medical residencies and incentivizing physicians to establish practices in rural and underserved areas.
TSET’s grantees, partners and staff have contributed tremendous talent, energy, resources and strategic alliances to build the momentum Oklahoma must have if we are truly going to impact our entire population, particularly young people and those most at risk.
I am fortunate to have so many wonderful colleagues in this work and am enormously grateful to each of you for your vision, dedication and hard work, and your friendship. I know I can count on you all to give John and the TSET board and staff your support, and to continue our collective efforts to improve the health of Oklahomans now and for generations to come!