Meet Denisha Porter
All-In Cincinnati Coalition Director Denisha Porter is originally from Cincinnati and graduated from Walnut Hills High School. She received her bachelor’s degree from Miami University and her master’s degree in public health from Wright State University.
Share details of your personal and professional background that helped to guide your path to Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF).
I started out in pre-med but decided I didn’t want to be a doctor. When I graduated, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I was advised to work at a hospital to expose myself to as many different career opportunities as possible. While working at Jewish Hospital on a cancer floor I found out I had cancer. It was a curse and a blessing because I had all the best doctors and a really good outcome. That experience ignited a passion in me to pursue a public health degree and I decided to earn my master’s degree from Wright State University.
Because I really wanted to give back, I then enlisted in Americorps. I worked with a school district in Columbus to create a cancer prevention curriculum that integrated health education specifically relating to nutrition, physical activity, and smoking cessation into other subjects such as math and science.
When I came back to Cincinnati I became a sanitarian with the Cincinnati Health Department. My first job was in environmental health, as a health inspector. In that role, I learned two important lessons that I carry with me to this day. I learned to listen to the community and that most problems can be addressed through open and honest dialogue. Those two lessons really set me up to move to the next stage of my career, working in health promotions studying the social determinants of health and becoming the Director of Health Promotion and Worksite Wellness as well as the Creating Healthy Communities Coalition.
While working to address health equity for 10 years, I realized the need for policies, systems, and environmental changes for people to prioritize their health. Often health was placed on the back burner due to other issues such as housing, education for their children and not having enough money to pay for health care. Understanding that all of these areas are connected and not siloed led me to GCF and the All-In Cincinnati Coalition. All-In Cincinnati is a coalition working to dismantle racial inequities in health, housing, education, economic mobility and justice by focusing on Black women in Hamilton County.
Who or what is your inspiration, and in what ways has that driven your passion for GCF’s mission?
My inspiration are the matriarchs in my family – my great-grandmother, grandmother and my mother, along with “the village” who raised me. They were the women in the community who took me under their wings, along with teachers in school who saw something special in me and really wanted to nurture that. My village took the time to talk to me and tell me about their experiences – things I shouldn’t and should do – and being really open and honest about what life is all about. Those women have really been my inspiration and I think that’s one of the reasons I like All-In Cincinnati. With All-In, I get the opportunity to lift up other Black women in the community in the same way my “village” uplifted me.
What are three things about you that most people don’t know?
- I was on drill team in high school, and I love everything dance.
- I am not a fan of roller coasters.
- I have a tendency to tell inadvertent jokes – I am an accidental comedian.
What do you like most about working at GCF?
I like the people – everybody is really smart and really dedicated to the work. I also like that we work hard and celebrate hard!