Dr. Stacey Griner named finalist for 2024 Faculty Achievement Award

May 29, 2024 • News

By Katie Biggar

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Dr. Stacey Griner

Each year at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, the Faculty Achievement Award process unfolds across the university, allowing faculty members to nominate their peers who demonstrate excellence in teaching, research, service, leadership, and the overall values of the university. This year, Dr. Stacey Griner from the School of Public Health was overwhelmingly nominated by her colleagues for the 2024 Faculty Achievement Award. As a finalist, she received a plaque and a $2,500 monetary prize in recognition of this esteemed honor.

Dr. Griner, an assistant professor in the Department of Population and Community Health has distinguished herself during her relatively brief tenure at HSC.

Dr. Griner has led several studies focusing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and important public health issues affecting primarily women and community health. As an implementation scientist with a background in dental hygiene, she brings a unique perspective to the commonly stigmatized discussion of STIs. Her approach stems from the often-overlooked relationship between STIs and oral health, particularly the link between Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and oropharyngeal cancers.

“If we can shift the conversation about the HPV vaccine to focus on preventing oral cancers, then dentists and dental hygienists could address it with their patients,” Dr. Griner said. “We could reframe vaccine as an approach to oral cancer prevention.”

Dr. Griner has demonstrated excellence in public health research with 71 peer-reviewed publications, over 900 citations, and prestigious awards, including the American Sexually Transmitted Disease Association’s Young Investigator Award received at the CDC’s Annual STD Prevention Conference in September 2022.

She has carefully and intentionally developed curricula to help students understand different cultures in maternal and child health by using ideas about how social and environmental factors affect health, inspiring students to look at health disparities from various perspectives. Dr. Griner is deeply committed to preparing future generations of public health professionals to advance health equity in every community. Alongside teaching, mentoring is where she finds the greatest fulfillment within academia.

“In my career, what matters most to me is educating and mentoring the next generation of public health experts,” Griner emphasized. “Receiving this honor, which celebrates a faculty member excelling in these areas, reassures me that I’m moving in the right direction.”

Dr. Griner’s commitment to mentorship extends beyond workday hours, seamlessly intertwining with her personal life as she mentors students within Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; A non-profit organization that creates and supports one-on-one mentoring relationships, helping young people reach their potential and guiding them towards higher education. As a first-generation college student herself, Dr. Griner is a perfect fit to mentor young individuals in their most transformative years.

“My role in this organization as a ‘big’ is to mentor my ‘little’ on what it looks like when she gets to college,” Dr. Griner explained. “It’s a privilege helping her answer all the questions I had at her age but didn’t have anyone to ask. I think that my passion for mentoring comes from seeing the possibilities and potential in others and knowing that their journey can be easier than mine was.”

Throughout her long academic career as a student, Dr. Griner supported herself through each of her four degrees, the first being her associate in dental hygiene. As a full-time dental hygienist, she managed to complete her bachelor’s, forfeiting the typical four-year college experience by attending night classes after long work days.

“I don’t have many regrets in my life, but missing out on a traditional four-year college experience is one of them,” Dr. Griner said. “I want to do my part in helping other young people get that experience. I also want more women to thrive in their education and enjoy academia. Maybe I can help a few people get there, that would be quite the legacy.”

Through her dedication to her research, passion for education, and genuine care for her students, Dr. Griner has proven to be an exemplary faculty member and asset to the School of Public Health. Her innovative work linking STIs and oral health, coupled with her commitment to mentoring and supporting students both in academia and through community organizations, sets a high standard for faculty achievement. Dr. Griner’s ability to push boundaries and approach public health issues with creativity and empathy is truly worth celebrating.