Tidelands Health community health expert selected as ambassador for statewide organization
Shawn Garrett spends his days – and many evenings – helping community members, especially those in rural areas of Georgetown County, get the knowledge and resources they need to prevent diabetes, improve their parenting skills and live better lives through better health.
Now, the dedicated community health worker at Tidelands Health will have influence in his field across South Carolina.
Garrett was recently selected as a 2020-21 Community Health Worker Ambassador for the Center for Community Health Alignment, which is based at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health Center and addresses health inequities.
As an ambassador, Garrett will provide expertise, advice and guidance to fellow community health workers throughout the state to advance the workforce’s important efforts in their communities. Garrett will represent the Pee Dee region on the seven-member group.
“Shawn’s extensive community experience and passion for serving as a community health worker are just a couple of reasons why he was selected to join this diverse group of CHW ambassadors,” said Andrea Heyward, deputy director of the Center for Community Health Alignment. “We are looking forward to having his expertise, advice and guidance on efforts that will impact the work of statewide partners and fellow CHWs across the state.”
Garrett’s passion for his work – though he prefers to refer to it as his calling – is contagious, making him a perfect fit for his new role.
“I love being a community health worker because I am able to bridge the gap with my community and help them get the resources that they need. Helping people is my No. 1 goal,” Garrett told the statewide center, which recently highlighted Garrett as a community health champion on its social media pages.
A Georgetown High School graduate and Sampit resident, Garrett, who turns 37 this month, spent a decade working in the radiology department at Tidelands Health before he found his true passion as a community health worker for the not-for-profit health system in 2016.
He has a way of connecting with community members and helping them find resources to improve their health and their families’ health. He leads a variety of classes in the community, including the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program and the Diabetes Prevention Program, which takes residents who are at risk of developing diabetes on a year-long journey of learning to make healthy eating and exercise a cornerstone of their lifestyle to reduce their risk and live healthier lives.
The free program has been tremendously successful, in part because of Garrett’s relatable way of offering genuine support to the participants – and a firm nudge when they get off track. Participants have praised Garrett and the program for helping transform their lives, many of them losing weight, lowering their risk of developing diabetes and showing improvement in other conditions such as sleep apnea.
“We all go in strangers and leave as family,” Garrett said. “We have that bond.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing my job and I’ve done what I can to help my county be healthier. To see their results and how appreciative and grateful they are – and knowing that I had a hand in that - makes me feel like I’m doing what I was called to do.”
Garrett has a deep passion for helping his community – through his work and on his own time. Through the years, he’s organized back-to-school drives to collect supplies for children to have the tools they need for the school year. He mentors youth in schools and as the church youth pastor at St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church in the Maryville community of Georgetown. In 2018-19, Rosemary Middle School in Andrews honored him with its Volunteer of the Year award for his work with the boys’ mentoring group.
He also spends time mentoring the kids in his own large family based in Georgetown County, including nieces, nephews and his 8-year-old foster son.
“I love helping people,” Garrett said. “That’s just something I love doing.”