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USM Professor Chosen President-Elect of Mississippi Public Health Association

Mon, 12/20/2021 - 09:12am | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Tanya T. FunchessLongtime public health professional, researcher and educator Dr. Tanya T. Funchess eagerly embraces the opportunity to serve as President-elect of the Mississippi Public Health Association (MPHA).

Funchess, Assistant Professor of Public Health at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), has been an MPHA member for more than 15 years. Prior to becoming President-elect, she served as chair of the MPHA Health and Racial Equity Committee.

“I am very honored and humbled to serve as President-elect for MPHA. I am excited to be working alongside public health professionals, decision-makers, health care leaders, academicians, faith-based organizations, and communities across this state from all walks of life, to improve the health of all Mississippians,” said Funchess.

Before joining the USM nursing faculty in 2018, Funchess served for 17 years at the Mississippi State Department of Health in various leadership roles, including the Office Director for Health Equity.

Dr. Kaye Bender, MPHA Executive Director, offers high praise for Funchess and expects the new President-elect to excel in the position.

“MPHA is so pleased that Dr. Funchess has accepted the role of President-elect. She brings a strong and impressive public health background to the position. Her leadership is already making a difference in our association, and we know it will do even more as she becomes president next year. She is perfect for the role,” said Bender.

Since 1937, the Mississippi Public Health Association has strived to strengthen public health in Mississippi through leadership, advocacy and education. MPHA provides members with professional development and networking opportunities while also serving as the voice of public health in Mississippi.

In her role as President-elect, Funchess will assume a range of responsibilities, including:

  • Preparing and presiding over meetings and conference calls
  • Working closely with the president and executive director on ensuring implementation of strategic goals
  • Fully participating in the work of the board of directors
  • Representing the association at various affiliate and/or professional events
  • Serving as the chair of MPHA Health and Racial Committee

Dr. Lachel Story, Dean of USM’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, notes that Funchess’ expertise and experience are valuable assets to MPHA’s mission.

“The College of Nursing and Health Professions has a strong legacy of public health leadership through the work of our faculty and our graduates. Dr. Funchess will provide excellent leadership as Mississippi continues to respond to the current and future health crises,” said Story.

Dr. Charkarra Anderson-Lewis, Director of USM’s School of Health Professions, echoed similar sentiments: “Dr. Funchess has been dedicated to the field of public health in the state of Mississippi for many years. The faculty and staff in the School of Health Professions and the Dr. Lynn Cook Hartwig Public Health Program at The University of Southern Mississippi are extremely excited about this new role for Dr. Funchess. I know that her excellent leadership as the MPHA President will continue to move the state forward.”

Funchess notes than an important benefit of having a USM faculty member serve in a high-ranking MPHA role is that students are given direct access to leading experts at the executive level in the state for public health. Further, it expands the students’ reach to resources for academic and professional development.

“It also presents an opportunity to show the type of public health expertise that exists here at the University,” said Funchess. “It puts Mississippi on a national stage with USM at the forefront of addressing relevant public health issues through research and service. It provides USM the opportunity to be at the table to develop goals and strategies to address Mississippi public health crises now and for the future.”

Funchess earned her associate degree in general business from Copiah Lincoln Junior College and her Bachelor of Science degree from USM in business administration. She later earned her master’s degree in management from Belhaven University; her Master’s in public health from USM, and her doctorate in health administration (research focus) from the University of Phoenix, Ariz.

A native of Magee, Miss., Funchess still resides there with her husband, Chaucer Funchess, and son, Chanse Funchess.

To learn more about the College of Nursing and Health Professions at USM, call 601.266.5445 or visit: