‘It’s personal’: School of Nursing grad embraces mission to control tobacco use
When it comes to Pam Buffington Redmon’s passion to control tobacco, it’s personal.
Two weeks before her 1985 graduation from Clemson’s School of Nursing, Redmon received a call that no daughter wants to receive. Her father, a longtime smoker, was being rushed to the hospital and would need open heart surgery. He survived, but struggled with heart issues throughout his life.
After graduating from Clemson, the Belton, S.C., native began work as a critical and coronary care nurse in Greenwood, S.C., then continued her career as a cardiac rehab specialist and clinical research nurse in Ohio. In many of her cases, she saw her father’s health story – smoking that led to health struggles – replicated in the lives of her patients.
So when she decided to enter the next phase of her career, she earned a master’s degree in public health from Emory University and embarked on a mission to impact health by working to control the use of tobacco.
Redmon first served as a staff member, then later executive director, of Emory’s Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium, which provided tobacco-control training and technical support to national, state and local organizations and foundations.
She then became executive director of the Global Health Institute – China Tobacco Control Program, a Gates Foundation initiative at Emory that is developing tobacco control and prevention initiatives, including smoke-free policies and mobile health interventions, in 17 Chinese cities with populations equivalent to U.S. states.
As she continues her work with the institute, she is embarking on a new endeavor – serving as administrative director for the Tobacco Centers for Regulatory Science at the Georgia State University School of Public Health. The center focuses on understanding the human and economic factors that contribute to decision-making regarding the use of tobacco products.
“Our research focuses on understanding the perceptions that people have about the risks of tobacco products, including novel products such as e-cigarettes. We are also finding out how those perceptions – along with tobacco product costs and tobacco-related public policies – affect purchasing decisions,” she said. “We will then develop media and materials based on those perceptions and buying habits.”
Through each of these opportunities, Redmon has not only been driven by personal experience but also by a continued recognition of tobacco control’s impact on people worldwide.
“Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the U.S. and around the world, and decreasing tobacco use reduces the health, social, environmental and economic burdens it creates for individuals and communities,” she said. “I am grateful for the opportunity I have to play a part in this effort.”
Redmon and her husband, Kevin, a 1985 Clemson computer engineering graduate, are also playing an important role in the life of their alma mater – joining together to fund the Kevin and Pam Redmon Class of 1985 Annual Scholarships.
To be awarded beginning next fall, the scholarship will be given to first-generation students in the School of Nursing or College of Engineering and Science.
Both first-generation college students themselves, the Redmons saw the opportunity to provide this kind of scholarship as a natural fit – and another personal mission.
“Had we not had grants and scholarships, we would have been concerned about how to pay for school while studying and getting the most out of college,” Pam Redmon said. “We want someone else to have that opportunity – to only have to worry about soaking up their college experience and preparing for their future.”
“We also love the nursing and engineering programs as well as Clemson,” she continued, saying that it is the place where she met Kevin, who serves as managing director at Alvarez & Marsal Business Consulting in Atlanta.
A native of Stow, Ohio, he also holds a master’s degree in computer engineering from Clemson and a master’s degree in business administration from the Harvard Business School. Before joining Alvarez & Marshal, he held executive positions at Radiant Systems, a global leader in point-of-sale technology, and led strategy consulting engagements at Bain & Company.
The Redmons have two children, a daughter who graduated from Emory University in 2010 and now lives in Stamford, Conn., and a son who is junior at the University of Georgia. The couple lives in Lawrenceville, Ga.