She promised not to cry, but there were still some emotional moments as Dr. Christine A. Moranetz presented her Last Lecture to students, faculty, community colleagues and close friends.
For nine years, Dr. Moranetz has served in a variety of leadership positions for the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health, and as Associate Professor preparing for retirement, she had a lifetime of reflections, stories, learning examples and advice to share.
The tradition of The Last Lecture, initiated by the UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association, provides students a chance to hear closing thoughts and gain inspiration from professors they have studied with over the years.
“I’ve been working on this presentation for quite a while, and I’ve prepared 180 slides for our three-hour workshop today,” Dr. Moranetz joked, opening her talk. “Seriously, I have so much to tell you, but I think you’ll be glad to know that I’ve condensed it into a one-hour presentation focused on my top ten words of advice.”
SPH graduate research assistant Md Abdullah Al Mamun, who has been mentored in his PhD studies by Dr. Moranetz, described her in opening introductions as “a professor who shares compassion with each of her students, who nurtures us and lets us thrive.”
Dr. Dennis Thombs, Dean, echoed those thoughts in his remarks, saying, “She always puts students first.”
Former student Allen Applegate, DrPH, MPH, CPH, traveled to Fort Worth from San Francisco to attend the presentation, saying, “Dr. Moranetz had such a positive impact on me as a student and on my career. It was an honor to be part of her final lecture as she reflected on her meaningful career and those who helped her achieve success. The wisdom she shared was heartfelt and inspiring.”
Applegate, who now serves as Lieutenant Commander for the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, US Department of Health and Human Services, worked with Dr. Moranetz during his UNTHSC doctoral studies.
Between reflections on her long career in both health promotion/disease prevention and academics, Dr. Moranetz shared some of her interesting hobbies, favorite quotes and very personal, touching stories.
In David Letterman style, she offered her “Top 10 Countdown,” noting that, “While this is particularly directed to the students, I hope that some of what I share speaks to everyone in the room.”
She offered this inspiring list of advice:
- #10: Dream big. Dr. Moranetz challenged students to “do one thing that scares you,” and to think in new and creative ways.
- #9: Be courageous. After a long battle with cancer and now four years in remission, Dr. Moranetz advised that sometimes there will be things that seem insurmountable, when you feel that you “just can’t do it,” but with courage and the help of friends and family, the impossible can be achieved.
- #8: Develop compassion and empathy. Dr. Moranetz illustrated this advice with a story of her mother’s career as an honored World War II Army nurse who served two tours of duty in the Pacific before returning home to continue her professional career stateside.
- #7: Serve others. “That’s what we do if you’re in public health, that’s what we are about,” Dr. Moranetz said. She encouraged working with populations most in need of public health students’ time and talents.
- #6: Leave a legacy. In describing one of her proudest career achievements – a dramatic educational theater project she co-developed on AIDS/HIV prevention that has continued for 24 years – Dr. Moranetz encouraged students to create their own legacy, professionally and personally.
- #5: Strive for equality and social justice. She challenged the audience to embrace diversity and advocate for gender equality.
- # 4: Cultivate friendships. “Live, laugh, play,” Dr. Moranetz said. “I’m a loyal friend and my friends have been loyal to me; we’ve been through a lot together.” She shared stories of professional colleagues who have remained friends for decades.
- #3: Stand by your faith and convictions. In advising students to “be honest and true,” Dr. Moranetz reflected on the example her father set in his military service and commitments to veterans and the community. Quoting a Native American Cherokee proverb, she said, “Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”
- #2: Live in the moment. “Keep a journal, reflect, make time to be grateful for what you have, don’t let worry and tension keep you from enjoying life,” she said. ”You might not know this, but I enjoyed learning to ballroom dance. I took lessons for 12 years and competed in professional-amateur competitions for seven years. What dancing taught me is how important it is to ‘follow’ – you don’t have to lead all the time. Life is a dance, enjoy it.”
- #1: Get out of your head and into your heart. In closing, Dr. Moranetz shared a number of thoughts, including the famous Helen Keller quote, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”
“It’s been said that great teachers inspire, and I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that I’ve been an inspiration to you, as you have been to me,” Dr. Moranetz said.
Dr. Moranetz has served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, DrPH Program Director, PhD Program Director and Chair of the Department of Public Health Education in the School of Public Health. On mentoring her last doctoral students, she will retire from UNT Health Science Center this summer.