This is Whole Health: Dr. Emily Spence

Emily Spence Headshot“As an example of Whole Health, I have been involved with a project to support the implementation and evaluation of the Faces of Changemakers. This is an interorganizational initiative to promote recovery from trauma and resilience in communities. Initiated by Tarrant County Commission Precinct 1 Executive Administrator Roderick Miles and the Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County, this group includes representatives from the Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP),  Fort Worth Independent School District Family Action Center, Renaissance Behavioral Health Services and The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s School of Public Health. Collectively, the group is working on transforming an evidence-informed trauma and resilience training to be relevant and impactful for communities that have experienced historical trauma and disinvestment. The team was initially trained by Dr. Allison Jackson, CEO of Integrated Solutions, on strategies to build a trauma-informed and resilient community.

“The Faces of Changemakers team has met regularly throughout 2023 to adapt evidence-based trauma training materials for the local audience. Together with student interns and research assistants, I have participated in these meetings and observed presentations at churches in Southeast Fort Worth. At these presentations, the team recruits individuals to attend a six-week session designed to increase awareness of trauma and build community resilience. During these sessions, community presenters share their experiences with trauma and explain the connection between adverse childhood experiences and health disparities and outcomes in adulthood. They help community members understand how some survival responses to traumatic situations can lead to later life challenges, including reactions to triggering experiences that interfere with their well-being. Following each presentation, church members are invited to ask questions. The audiences’ reflections on the material have demonstrated how powerful it is to share vulnerable experiences and make links between early life trauma and vicious cycles of re-traumatization.

“This work exemplifies several key areas of Whole Health. First and foremost, it highlights the importance of magnifying community wisdom and experience to address the most daunting issues impacting health and health disparities. Second, it portrays a pathway between having adverse childhood experience and encountering later struggles in life that impact a person’s environment (neighborhood), mental, physical and financial health. Third, it demonstrates the connectedness between spirituality, mental health and community as being instrumental in the path toward healing and resilience. Working with the Faces of Changemakers team exemplifies the importance of being a community-centered and socially accountable school and the value of community-driven solutions.”

Emily Spence, PhD, MSW, CHWI

Associate Dean, Community Engagement & Health Equity

School of Public Health


What areas of whole health are part of this story?

  • Self-Care
  • Environment
  • Community
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Financial Health
  • Spiritual Health

To learn more about HSC’s Whole Health Initiative, go to If you have an example of how you have implemented one or more whole health areas and want to be featured in the “This is Whole Health” series, please email

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