One Good Mentor

By Elizabeth Barton

Marin Meyer

Marin Poole Meyer (BA ‘06, MA ‘08) can’t stand cigarettes. The way they smell, how they litter the ground, the insidious ways they destroy our health. Since she grew up in a rural community in northern Utah, however, she’d never been fully exposed to the prevalence of tobacco until she moved to Tokyo for a year at age 15 to experiment with international modeling. “Back home, I’d been involved with the community youth group that supported healthier lifestyles, but when I came back from Japan, the fire was lit,” she says.

Upon returning to the States, not only did Meyer know she wasn’t interested in an international modeling career, but she also knew she needed to empower others with information about the tobacco industry and its sneaky targeting tactics. “That [knowledge] directed the next decade of my life, working in tobacco prevention and control,” she says. Working with the Truth anti-tobacco campaign, Meyer spent her summers touring the country and championing a message of prevention.

Eager to continue in these efforts, she declared a public health major her first semester at BYU. It was in the Department of Health Science, she says, that Meyer not only developed a better understanding of health promotion, but also where she developed myriad impactful and long-lasting relationships with both professors and peers. Plenty of lab hours, passion, more international experience, two degrees, time as BYU adjunct faculty and four children later, it’s these BYU-birthed relationships that not only stand out most, but that also continue to make the biggest impact in her life.

“It really is all about the relationships,” Meyer states, acknowledging that the study and implementation of public health exists so that meaningful relationships can be both created and preserved. We seek to prevent tobacco consumption, for example, because we know that detrimental substances have the capacity both to inhibit and to destroy healthy and fulfilling relationships. In this sense, life and the relationships that come with it are worth every effort of preservation.

Nearly a decade after receiving her Master’s degree and Meyer is still in contact with members of her graduate cohort, as well as with professors whose examples she reveres and on whose guidance she still relies. Professor Brad Neiger, she says, is one such mentor who’s helped Meyer in a way she never could’ve predicted.

“While I was in graduate school,” Meyer explains, “[Neiger] went through his second bout of treatment for thyroid cancer. . . . He stepped away for treatment and came back vibrant as ever. He was a tremendous mentor for me throughout the program. Fast forward to this year and I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Once again, I returned to my excellent mentor and he helped me understand things and gave me direction and encouragement just as he did during my time at BYU.”

Gearing up for more radiation later this year, Meyer explains that thyroid cancer is rarely deadly. “It’s a very manageable cancer,” but that doesn’t mean it’s to be dismissed. It also doesn’t diminish the importance of a professor’s lifelong impact or the benefits and relationships that come with receiving an all-encompassing education.

In fact, continues Meyer, it’s a similar story with professors like Gordon Lindsay and Rosemary Thackeray, both of whom inspired Meyer to get involved and stay involved; to receive as much education as possible regardless of gender stereotypes or prior expectations. Ideally, Meyer would like to have a similar impact on her own children, people in her community and—hopefully in the future—on BYU students in the classroom. “I am invigorated by the students. Teaching at BYU was a tremendous blessing in my life. Being able to help students further their dreams—it’s really fulfilling. Going forth to serve after BYU. . . I think it’s in being able to give back.”

So in addition to work in her home and immediate community, how specifically does Meyer give back to BYU? Each year, Meyer and her husband donate $2,500 of scholarship money to a student studying Public Health to make educational aspirations possible. The scholarship, she says, was inspired by her peers in the public health graduate program. “These are passionate students who just need access to get out there. [The money] might seem small now, but at the time, I remember it was everything. If I can make it easier for those students to accomplish what they set out to do, it’s incredibly fulfilling,” she says. It is something simple not only to encourage further education, but also to foster the creation of relationships that come as a result of that education.

“I don’t know what my life would’ve been like without BYU, but I know that I love life and have been fulfilled by my education as well as by the mentors and relationships from BYU that continue today.”