Like many in her profession, nursing was a calling for Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin. Inspired by her mother and a series of books from her youth, Martin is now responsible for guiding Pettis County through a pandemic that the nation and world have never experienced.
Martin is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia and has advanced degrees from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She began her career at the health center in 2002 as the Epidemiology Specialist under a Bioterrorism Grant.
“I don't ever remember a time when I did not want to be a nurse,” Martin said. “I wanted to help people. I read all the Cherry Ames books when I was growing up and I was inspired by all the good things she got to do.”
Martin explained she wanted to go to Deaconess School of Nursing in St. Louis because they had a cool cap, which she said, tongue in cheek, was a “great reason, right?”
Her mother worked at a nursing home and the lead nurse encouraged Martin to go to college. The advice led Martin to the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Only months ago, few in Pettis County may have known of Martin and her work. As the administrator for the health center prior to the pandemic, Martin was responsible for attending numerous meetings to represent the health center. She answered questions, managed the business of the health center and even got to see clients.
Since the pandemic’s arrival, her work has changed in many ways.
“I don't go anywhere,” Martin said. “I now worry about not only the well-being of the staff but the well-being of the entire community on a different level.
“I worry that the decisions that are made will contribute to more people becoming ill who could have been protected with a different decision,” she continued. “I worry about all the people who have lost jobs because of the need to be closed. I worry about all the children at home who are trying to complete their education this year and the parents who are trying to help them, but more about the children who have no one to help them. I worry about the teachers who are trying to do their best…”
As a member of the Pettis County COVID-19 Task Force, Martin and other elected and appointed leaders meet twice weekly if not more to discuss the ever-changing situations facing the county and its residents. By state statute, as the Health Center Administrator, Martin is tasked with issuing health orders and decisions for the county.
All of Pettis County remains under the same guidelines. This includes establishments and residents in the City of Sedalia and surrounding townships within Pettis County. Martin issued a new health order for Pettis County on Saturday that will remain in effect until May 31.
“According to the statutes, if a city does not have an established health department, then the public health authority resides with the recognized local public health agency for the county,” Martin said last week. “There are no other recognized health departments in the county, so the Pettis County Health Center remains the public health authority for the county.”
Pettis County Presiding Commissioner David Dick, who oversees the task force meetings, is grateful for Martin’s knowledge and advice.
“I am glad to be working with someone who has my full trust and confidence,” Dick commented via text. “She has been a source of reason and information that has the community and its health at the forefront. Her time at the health center has shown a consistent focus on delivering programs and services.”
Dick, who has known Martin for more than a decade, also applauds Martin’s staff for the work they are doing each day to ensure the safety of the community.
“She has a staff that is remarkably capable and responsible to carry out their task and keep the citizens and their families first,” Dick noted. “She has put together a very excellent staff that is long on depth and experience. They are all capable and focused.”
Martin too is extremely grateful for her staff: “I want them to get the credit as they are working really hard.”