Pam Benedict

Pam Benedict is a nurse with the Erie County Health Department in Ohio and has an extensive background working with all age groups, from newborn to adults. She is a former obstetrics nurse and spent 22 years as a pediatric nurse working in with physicians in private practice. Because of her extensive knowledge, background, and current position as an agency nurse, Pam has many opportunities to spread the word about smoking prevention and cessation programs, and to promote clean indoor air. Her love for all people and her concerns for their health has driven her in many different directions.

Pan holds a special place in her heart for children with disabilities and handicaps. She was the former director of the "Cleveland High Hat" program at the Cleveland Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities. While living in the Cleveland area, Pam became involved with a volunteer puppeteer program called "Kids on the Block." The puppets skits were designed to help young people understand disabilities and become comfortable in the presence of those with disabilities. This was the beginning of a new passion for her!

While Pam's passion for smoking cessation and prevention, lung disease, and clean air comes from many sources, there is one that is especially close to her heart. Smoking took a tremendous toll on her parents, especially her father. "My father was a great writer and a great man, but unfortunately he had a 3 1/2 pack a day addiction to cigarettes," Pam says. His smoking led to emphysema and eventually, he died from congestive heart failure. Pam's mother was a great, strong woman and also a writer. Pam recalls her mother telling her that if she could have changed one thing in her life, she would never have started smoking. Though she quit 37 years before she died of colon cancer, Pam's mother believed her past smoking had played a role in causing her disease.

More recently, Pam attended a workshop called "Smoking Cessation for Ohio African American Communities." Prior to attending this event, Pam had no idea how the tobacco companies had targeted this audience. She realized there was a need for more culturally sensitive and diverse smoking prevention and cessation programs. Pam became involved with the Erie County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, which is how she was introduced to the work of the American Lung Association of Ohio Northwest Region.

Her involvement with the Tobacco Prevention Coalition provided her with a new avenue to pursue with her love of puppetry. The Erie County Health Department and the Erie County Tobacco Prevention Coalition set up their booths adjacent to each other at the last two community events. Puppet shows were performed throughout the day to deliver healthy lifestyle messages to the children in attendance. The tobacco prevention and education skit is called "BE SMART, DON"T START." Kids of all ages were obviously entertained as they sat and watched the skits. Pam is currently looking for ways to acquire everything she needs to conduct her puppet shows on a regular basis. Most of the equipment she uses currently is borrowed, but she hopes to have everything at her disposal so she can spread the message of health even more.