Shelley E. Varner-Perez
2005 Sullivan Award Recipient
For Shelley E. Varner-Perez, a 2005 graduate of Campbell University and recipient of the Sullivan Award, faith is central to her life as a spiritual care researcher. We caught up with her to learn more about her life since graduation.
What did the Sullivan Award mean to you?
I remember being very surprised by the honor. I received special recognition at graduation, including my family being invited to a luncheon and having photos taken by a professional photographer. This was a huge honor. My grandfather was able to be in attendance, and this held additional meaning since he did not have the opportunity to complete high school but was present for me to graduate college with distinction.
Who nominated you for the Sullivan Award? Are you still in touch with that person today?
I believe my professor and department chair nominated me. I worked as his student worker/student editor. We have stayed in touch via email and social media. He is still very supportive.
Tell us about your career and what you do now?
I combined my interests in religion, community service and the humanities to become a spiritual care researcher. I earned a Master of Divinity and served as an associate pastor in a church setting, then as a chaplain in Veterans Affairs health care before receiving a Research Fellowship to pursue a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology. Now I work in an academic health center and collaborate with various researchers to learn more about spiritual care outcomes for patients, families and staff. My role has been especially interesting during COVID-19.
Are you still involved with community service or community outreach?
I volunteer with my church, and I provide research support to a community outreach project in the academic health care system where I work. I find community work engaging and meaningful. I believe the intersection between health care and faith groups can be strengthened to everyone’s benefit.