Dr. Acton: Overcoming Obstacles

Dr. Amy Acton, MD, MPH: Overcoming Life’s Obstacles to Protect Others
Dr Amy ActonBecause of the Coronavirus, Dr. Amy Acton has become a household name to millions of Ohioans, yet, many know very little about her. Acton was appointed to the position of Director of Health for the Ohio Department of Health in February 2019 by Governor Mike DeWine. Dr. Acton was a perfect choice; she had earned her medical degree from the Northeastern Ohio University of Medicine and completed her residency and internships at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (New York City, New York) and Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Columbus, Ohio). Before her appointment, Dr. Acton had worked at The Columbus Foundation as the community research and grants management officer, and prior to that position, she was an assistant professor-practice at The Ohio State University College of Public Health. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the OSU College of Medicine and Public Health, visiting faculty professor at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and director of Project L.O.V.E. (Love Our Kids, Vaccinate Early). With all of her credentials combined, Dr. Acton has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of teaching, government and community service, healthcare policy, and medical practice.

Dr. Acton’s lengthy career is even more impressive given her difficult and troublesome childhood. Acton’s life began in Youngstown, Ohio, but would lead her across the country and back again. The frequent traveling was not under good circumstances, however. After her parents’ divorce when she was three, Acton’s mother gained custody. This proved to be a mistake that would alter her life forever.

With her mother and younger brother, Acton called 18 different places home within her first twelve years of life. Her mother’s nomadic tendencies were also common within her personal relationships. The boyfriends of her mother were described by Acton as “a cast of characters”. Eventually, her mother decided to settle down once more and marry her current boyfriend of the time. This union, however, was not in the best interest of Acton and her brother. Her mother’s husband had been accused of molestation in the past and, at the expense of Acton, it can be assumed that these accusations were true. Between the ages of nine to twelve, the young Amy Acton was abused. At one point, the family was living in a tent in a campground outside of Youngstown. Following years of neglect and abuse, there was enough evidence for charges to be filed against her mother and stepfather. When asked about the circumstances surrounding her horrific experiences while living with her mother, Acton said: “I was lucky that it got bad enough, because it got me out of there”. After they were charged, Acton went to kiss her mother goodbye but was denied the opportunity when her mother turned her cheek and walked out of her only daughter’s life for good.

Once Acton and her brother were in the proper custody of their father, life began to get better. She hid the secrets of her past from many of the people she met during adolescence and tried to move on with life. She attended Liberty High School in Youngstown and was the Homecoming Queen of the class of 1984. She later went on to pursue medicine, obviously, and it’s safe to say she chose the right path.

While the position of Director of Health has always come with tremendous responsibility, the issues Dr. Acton is facing now are unprecedented - a global pandemic was not included in the job description. Despite what can be assumed to be an enormous amount of pressure weighing on her today, Dr. Acton has united Ohioans and set an example for the rest of the country to follow. Her understanding, grace, and steadfast determination during one of the most difficult times in modern U.S. history are inspiring. This is not the first difficult situation she has lived through, and with her guidance, the rest of Ohio will overcome this challenge too.

Written by: Addie Hedges