What do you do? (job, community involvement): I am the director of community health for Essentia Health, a nonprofit, integrated health system serving communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. In my role, I develop and identify strategic activities that support health and vitality with our communities. This includes conducting community health needs assessments to understand the key health issues in each community, leading strategic planning with communities, and working with partners to advance ideas and solutions to solve regional rural health problems.

I serve as the co-chair of Bridging Health Duluth, a coalition of local health care and public health partners that have combined resources, skills and expertise to improve the health of all people in Duluth.

Outside of my work with Essentia Health, I am involved in the community through serving on the board of directors at Whole Foods Co-op.

What is important to you? One of the things that is most important to me is having a sense of purpose. I feel lucky to have a meaningful career, that I truly believe is making an impact on health outcomes in rural communities. I have a public health background and am passionate about building healthy communities. On a personal level, it’s important to me to spend time in nature every day.

I also love living near family and friends — having a strong social network of people that support each other is so important for well-being.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Lastly, it’s important to me to find a way to contribute to the community I live in. I seek to understand the history and current issues facing the community. I think that we all have a role in fostering the change we want to see in our own community. For me, I want to be a part of creating a community that values well-being, diversity and environmental stewardship.

How do you spend your free time? I spend a lot of my free time hiking in the woods with my husband and dog around our home on the Sucker River. Also, I’m an avid reader and heavy user of the Duluth Public Library system. I love having a new hobby with each season: gardening in the summer, snowshoeing in the winter, and in the spring, my family makes enough maple syrup that we can eat pancakes all year round.

From nominator: "Emily has a genuine passion for improving health at the community level in Duluth and throughout the northland region. Her passion is infectious as it draws people to want to be engaged in the many initiatives she has launched and leads. She does her homework and initiates well-researched projects based on the community’s priorities. Her work is grounded in improving health for all, with added focus on the health disparities affecting people of color and marginalized populations." — Jenny Peterson