Oak Knoll School alumna Patricia Mechael ’92 draws on career in public health to co-write book with her son
Patricia Mechael ’92, Ph.D. MHS dreamed of becoming a children’s book author when she was young – and she also wanted to help people.
Now, Mechael’s two dreams have become a reality this October when her book The Antidotes: Pollution Solution, (Bold Story Press) co-written with her 10-year-old son Gabriel, published. The book, written during the COVID-19 pandemic, is about a group of kids – ironically – who stop a future pandemic.
Mechael’s dream of helping people has been a central theme during her work in public health for the past 20 years.
Her career has focused on low-and middle-income countries, mostly Africa, Asia and the Middle East working on issues ranging from maternal and child health to HIV and AIDs. She has held several public health positions including Director of mHealth and Telemedicine at the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance; Executive Vice President of the Personal Connected Health Alliance; and Co-founder and Executive Director at HealthEnabled.
“I became involved in public health because I loved the idea of keeping healthy people healthy and developing policies, systems and approaches to address health issues that impact millions of people at a time,” said Mechael, who wrote her Ph.D. about mobile phones and health helping to shape the field of mobile health (mHealth) and now known as digital health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mechael and her son went for daily walks where they discussed the book’s characters and plot. They also edited and rewrote sections, talked to friends for their feedback and workshopped the book with other middle grade fiction writers.
Mechael first fell in love with science while at Oak Knoll School – especially during chemistry and physics classes with Dr. Barbara Gadegbeku.
“I was a very quiet young person when I arrived at OKS,” said Mechael.
“However, somehow the amazing faculty all found ways to bring me out of my shell. Dr. Gadegbeku suggested that someday I might want to work at the World Health Organization because I was interested in medicine and the world. I learned to listen to and trust myself and grew in my confidence at Oak Knoll and took that with me to college and beyond. Today, I am often the only woman speaking on a panel about digital health and one of the senior-most females in my field. I attribute this success to my time at Oak Knoll,” she said.
Mechael said it is imperative to teach and to educate the next generation about global public health issues.
“As we saw with the pandemic and are experiencing with climate change and technology, the world is more inter-connected and inter-dependent. My favorite line in The Antidotes came from something Gabriel said when we were brainstorming the book, ‘No kid would let another kid die if there was something that they could do to prevent it.’ There is no shortage of public health issues that need kids’ attention and action now- everything from gun control to mental health to unchecked/unregulated technology. Kids are our greatest potential for social change and for global public health,” she said.
Mechael would like to see every individual in the world take a more active role in their own health and in the health of their communities, countries and planet in the next 10 years.
“For public health to work it requires collective action and a sense of community,” said Mechael. “It’s an altruistic field that requires an all of society approach.”
The Antidotes: Pollution Solution is available for order through IndieBound and Amazon. To become a member of The Antidotes Community, you can subscribe to Patty’s newsletter at www.patriciamechael.com/antidotes