Our Staff Spotlight celebrates the team of individuals who play a vital role in the programming, engagement, events, and research that propels the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance forward, resulting in sustainable impact for the Nashville community.
Dr. Freneka F. Minter, Ph.D., MS, MCHES, PMP, CCRP, a native of Murfreesboro, TN, serves as the Sr. Community Research Program Manager at the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance. Dr. Minter leads the MVA’s Faculty Affiliate Program and plays a vital role on the MVA Research Team.
Here are some highlights from Dr. Minter’s spotlight interview:
What made you decide to start working in the health sector?
“I got into chemistry in high school, I was in the Project SEED program and chemistry was required with the program. I realized I was good at chemistry and that opened the doors to my next step: college. I had no aspiration to go to college; I am the first in my maternal family to go and complete college. One college course required us to perform a genealogy chart to understand our family’s health history—and this project opened my eyes to factors that I was predisposed to and how important it was for people like me to be in the health sector.”
How has being a native Tennessean played a role in your approach to your work?
“It has definitely played a role in understanding the communities that I work with. For example, faith and faith-based communities were a large part of my upbringing. Both of my grandfathers were pastors and I have been in the same church all my life—and that type of community, faith-based communities, are a big part of my experience as a Tennessean. Growing up, the whole community, the whole village took care of me— “it takes a village” is really how I was raised…my village was not only my neighborhood but also my church family. Understanding this first-hand has been vital to my approach to my work.”
Tell us about your journey to the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance:
“Well, it definitely has not been linear! I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great organizations like MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services, the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program with the Tennessee Department of Health, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Biomedical Informatics. Each of these positions taught me different lessons, but all pointing me in the direction of listening to the voices that are on the ‘outside looking in’…something I feel very strongly about. Which brought me here, to the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance…continuing to elevate the voices that traditionally haven’t been listened to…”
What excites you about the work at the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance?
“Talking and working with the community. Making sure they feel valued and feel like they have been listened to. From talking to a faculty member about a consultation request—helping them get their work done or helping move their research forward—to working with students that may feel lost or don’t know where to start. That is what excites me. My thing is helping people. Whether it be with their health or helping them move a health problem forward or helping them arrive to a solution—that’s what I want to do. I want to help people.”
What things do you like to do outside of work?
I love to sing. I used to sing back up for a gospel choir, and that was such a source of joy. I also enjoy volunteering in the Nashville community. Outside of that, I love to dance (mostly Latin and Hip-Hop) and singing karaoke is a guilty pleasure…”
How do you practice mindfulness or take time for yourself?
Something I love to do for mindfulness is go for walks. I sometimes even intentionally schedule them in my calendar to take 15-minute breaks and walk outside. I don’t always stick to it! But it is a great reminder to take time for yourself and be connected to nature—especially during the springtime.
What is your favorite place to eat in Nashville/Middle Tennessee?
“It may be a little bougie… but I love Bob’s Chop House in downtown Nashville. They have the BEST pickles in Nashville—and I am a pickle fanatic! It’s for sure a place to go as a treat.”
Dr. Minter is a way-maker…a mover AND a shaker whose motto, “No Obstacle Before Me,” has taught her the importance of self-advocacy and perseverance. She values connection, community, and compassion and serves as a source of joy for the MVA team.
Join us in thanking Dr. Minter for all the impactful work she does at the MVA!
When asked to describe herself in three words, Dr. Minter chose “humble, driven, and supportive.” How would the rest of the MVA team describe Dr. Minter in three words? Well, see below.