October 7, 2004 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture has forged many partnerships with other colleges and departments to make the Health Education through Extension Leadership program meet the needs of Kentuckians. Recently, the Deputy Administrator for Families, Nutrition and 4-H with the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited UK to encourage and praise HEEL leaders for their efforts.

Mary McPhail Gray, Ph.D., presented a seminar titled "A National Perspective on the Land-Grant Mission and Health and Nutrition, Families and Youth in the 21st Century." She said UK is leading the way with programs like HEEL.

"I think the things you have accomplished at UK are wonderful as models for other institutions in others states," she said. "You have articulated the fact that you have a real need in the area of health, health access, health education, and the integration of health services. You have brought together the strength of the university by bringing the health, human development and community development-related colleges together to create a structure for reaching out to real people."

Gray talked about ways Extension can make a difference in the health of the nation, starting with children and following through with teen-agers and adults. She met with the HEEL program leadership throughout her visit to brainstorm about ways they can continue their work and partnerships.

"Most of the current issues we have in Kentucky and other states now need solutions creatively driven by different disciplines coming together to ask the questions," she said. "We have very few human issues that can be solved by any one department or any one university or college. We have questions about people's ability to make decisions, a model for how they make decisions, their access to information, their struggles with social, physical and economic health and UK is actually talking across the disciplines in some very creative ways and that is great."

Before joining the USDA in December 2003, Gray was the associate director for Cooperative Extension at Colorado State University from 1997 through 2003. She also was a tenured professor in the CSU's department of human development and family studies in the College of Applied Human Sciences. From 1994 to 1997 she served as the assistant Extension director for family and consumer sciences, and associate dean in the College of Human Ecology at Kansas State University.

Gray was the state leader for 4-H and family and consumer sciences at West
Virginia University and a state specialist in human development and family science at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She also served on the faculty at Michigan State University. She served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia after beginning her Extension career as a county agent in Oswego, New York. 

Gray has served the land-grant university system in a number of national leadership roles and has co-authored a book titled Knowing and Serving Diverse Families. She maintains special interests in diversity, program evaluation and leadership in public systems.


Writer: Aimee D. Nielson  859-257-4736, ext. 267