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Navy blue background has diamonds and starbursts. A spotlight icon shines on a circular image of Mary Wolfe McKinley. A label reads "In the spotlight." Below the label is the text "Mary Wolfe McKinley."

CHER benefits from colleagues who’ve traveled different paths. And sometimes, the path to CHER includes learning all about smoothing the paths of others.

Our research director knows all about way-finding: she’s found her way through park trails, urban environments and research in higher ed.

Get to know Mary and how she’s paving the way for research success at CHER.

Tell us about your role at CHER. what’s your position and focus?

I am the Associate Director of Research Innovation & Development at CHER. I joined the center in 2019, eager to collaborate with researchers tackling hard questions about health equity from different disciplinary angles.

My background is in geography and urban planning, so I bring this lens to the work that I do.

As a co-investigator in CHER research, I study connections between built environments and health outcomes to address disparities.

As a leader in CHER, I develop systems to support research staff and look for ways to grow our portfolio of work through collaborations, funded research and building exciting new research support services that we offer to teams outside of the center.

What do you like best about working at CHER?

My brilliant, compassionate colleagues are the best part about my job.

Showing up to work and giving 100% is a lot easier when your team and closest collaborators are always bringing that same energy and commitment.

What’s the most important thing for people to understand about what you do?

I think that the way I’ve conceptualized my role – and this is largely colored by the many lessons learned during the pandemic – is to be a connector and facilitator for new ideas and new ways of getting work done within our portfolio of health equity research.

There will always be roadblocks and logistical detours that research staff and faculty face daily in the pursuit of high quality, rigorous research; my aim is to help dismantle these barriers and pave a way for more efficiency and innovation in the day-to-day flows of research.

I believe the success of a research institution hinges on systems that perform well and people who feel balanced and fulfilled in their work.

What are some challenges you face?

Some challenges that rise to the top are increasingly expedited submission timelines from funders and finding new ways to keep teams feeling connected in the enduring reality of a distributed work environment.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I was previously a Park Ranger and it was one of my favorite jobs.