Bessanderson McNeil

Educator who investigated hypertension and promoted community health

Bessanderson McNeil MPH ’71 is a community health and wellness promoter, and a retired hypertension educator and researcher. She serves as the Contra Costa County liaison on Samuel Merritt University’s Ethnic Health Institute Executive Committee. Formerly the Ethnic Health Institute was part of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

On public health and the challenges we face:

“Public health is such an important field and those of us in the field are the ones who should and can address the issues and concerns by undoing the damage that humans have caused. Without a doubt, in California and the world, the biggest challenge is overpopulation of humans and from that flow a myriad of other issues. The world population has tripled since 1958, going from 2,555,982,611 to 7,481,000,000 in 2016. This tremendous population growth has placed, and will continue to place, an enormous amount of stress on our environment (air, water, and soil).” f

Berkeley moment:

“Actually, my ‘Berkeley moment’ occurred before I was enrolled at the School of Public Health. At Boston University, where I completed my undergraduate studies in physical therapy, one of the requirements for all P.T. students was to complete a summer internship in our junior year. I chose the Rusk Institute of Physical Medicine in New York. My preceptor there was a young male P.T. named Carl Lester. I completed the internship and received my B.S. degree the following year. I was offered a position at Rusk, the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, and the East Bay Center for Rehabilitation at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley. I decided on Berkeley. I lived in many places in Berkeley before moving to Parker Street. One day, I was out walking my dogs and I saw what I thought was a familiar shaped head. I approached the man and indeed, it was Carl Lester. We were both super surprised. Turns out, he lived two blocks from me. He was the one who told me about the master’s program at the School of Public Health and, as they say, the rest is history. I am so pleased to be in his company, once again!”

Theme song while at Berkeley/Movie of my life at SPH:

Frank Sinatra’s ‘I did it my way’ (with a lot of help from a lot of people—professors and other students and unending support from my family.)”