PITTSBURG — Janis Goedeke has dedicated her life to public health, and served Crawford County for nearly 30 years.

Goedeke is being honored as a Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce 2017 Woman of Distinction for her work with the Crawford County Health Department and her continued commitment to public health throughout the state.

She began working at the Crawford County Health Department in 1989, and has served as health officer since 1996. Now she oversees 23 programs across 18 counties in southeast Kansas.

“I’ve always been drawn to helping and serving others,” Goedeke said. “I have memories as a little girl of the public health nurses giving us sugar cubes with the polio vaccine.”

Goedeke attended Mercy School of Nursing in Fort Scott and travelled to Dallas, Texas to become a nurse practitioner.

She has served the state in numerous capacities, including positions on the Governor’s Public Health Improvement Work Task Force, Early Detection Works Medical Advisory Board, Kansas Association of Counties Public Health Advisory Committee and more.

She has also served as president of the Kansas Public Health Association, and sat on the Judicial Youth Authority Steering Committee. Goedeke said youth leadership is important, and encourages parents to keep children active.

“I think it is important for parents to keep children active in organizations like 4-H and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts,” she said. “They help create leaders for the future.”

Goedeke has proven herself as a leader. In 2013 she was chosen as a Public Health Hero of Kansas by the United Health Foundation, she has presented at the American Public Health Conference and the American Public Health Association, and this year she was the recipient of the Kansas Public Health Association Dorothy Woodin Award.

However, she says a good leader can’t work alone.

“Leaders can’t do it all themselves,” Goedeke said. “It’s through a great staff, great executive director in Rick Pfeiffer and support from the Crawford County Commissioners that the health department has been able to grow and better service Crawford County.”

Goedeke said another thing that has helped her and pushed her along is her faith. Something she was happy to see she shared with other recipients on the women of distinction calendar.

“I was very humbled and very honored to be selected, particularly when you see the list of women and the work they had done,” she said. “And many of them have faith driving their actions, which I thought was awesome.”

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.