AUBURN | When Jessica Soule was working as a newspaper reporter, she noticed she was writing about a lot of the same problems.
"Childhood obesity going up, type 2 diabetes going up, rape rates increasing," Soule said. "It just felt like we were writing the same story over and over. I thought, wouldn't it be great if I could actually have a part in changing that?"
With that in mind, Soule started attending classes toward a master's degree in public health in a joint program from Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University in 2011.
Four years later, she's now in a position to take part in the type of change she was talking about. Soule was named executive director of the Cayuga Community Health Network on May 1.
She worked as editor of the Skaneateles Journal from 2008 to 2013 before leaving the job to focus on completing her degree.
After graduating and joining the Cayuga Community Health Network as a program coordinator in 2014, she rose quickly to the executive director role. Her vision for the organization, she said, is to act as a partner to as many Auburn and Cayuga County health organizations and programs as possible.
"I'd like to build the organization into the place that a group can go to if they need a partner on grants or initiatives," Soule said. "We can build on what is already here to become stronger."
As for the health network's own initiatives, Soule said she'd like to see continued growth for the "A Healthy You!" program, which helps people with long-term chronic conditions to work with their doctors and commit to healthy habits.
"Chronic disease can affect people financially — how much money they are spending, but also how much money the government is spending, through Medicare, Medicaid," Soule said. "So ideally, by focusing on preventing chronic disease, we can improve the quality of life for our residents."
The health network this year launched the Population Health Improvement Plan. The program works toward reaching health goals as a community. Soule said the program is still in the process of being built up.
A Michigan native, Soule moved to Auburn in 2006 for a job with The Citizen. The city appeared smaller than she had imagined, and she originally planned to move on after a couple years, she said. Nine years later, she now considers Auburn home.
"I became an adult here, really," Soule said. "I fell in love here, started my career here. I came into my own. And now I'll work in public health the rest of my life, and that started here. So I do feel like this is my home — just don't tell my mom."