Former university dean continues work in developing and promoting community health programs

October 01, 2013

Dr. Loretta Prater served more than 40 years as a teacher and administrator before her retirement as the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau in 2012. In recent years, Prater has continued her focus on community health, becoming increasingly aware of the connection between health education and economic viability for a community or region.

Upon acceptance into the Delta Leadership Institute in 2010, Prater planned to expand her knowledge of regional collaboration for community health efforts through the skills and networking provided through the Executive Academy. “When I was first made aware of this opportunity, there were not a lot of people from my area applying who had a focus on health,” Prater said. “I was drawn to DLI because I thought more attention needed to be focused on that.”

One of Prater’s proudest accomplishments before retirement was her role in creating the Sho-Mobile, a mobile healthcare unit geared toward providing dental and medical services to southeast Missouri’s Bootheel region, one of the most impoverished areas of the state. The project included partnerships with health care providers in the region and alleviated the obstacle of finding transportation for those who could not afford to travel to a health care provider. Prater was also instrumental in the establishment of the Autism Center at Southeast Missouri State University, a facility that provides to families of autistic children and young adults services and resources that would not otherwise be accessible in rural communities.

Since retirement, Prater has continued to conduct research, lead workshops, and serve on multiple committees that oversee communities throughout the state, with a special interest in support services for the aging population. Despite these activities, Prater is careful not to spread herself too thin post-retirement so that she can focus on publishing a book dealing with social justice issues that she is hoping to finish by the end of the year. In the future, she says she would never give up her work and hopes to continue serving her community.

“Throughout my career I’ve been focused on the wellbeing of individuals and families,” Prater said. “Whether it was teaching, administration, or community service, everything came back to that.”