On November 5, 2021, the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics at the BYU Marriott School of Business presented the 2021 N. Dale Wright Alumni Award to Dr. Tamara Sheffield. She is currently the medical director for preventive medicine at Intermountain Healthcare. Faculty members, alumni, and students from the Romney Institute’s MPA program gathered in the ballroom of BYU’s Harman Continuing Education Building to recognize and support her in this honor.
Sheffield centered her remarks around one of her favorite Bible stories: the story of Esther. “Queen Esther’s brave choice to put her life on the line to save her people was instigated by her Uncle Mordechi asking her this question, ‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’” Sheffield said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many things into perspective for many of us. During a time of considerable challenge, I’ve seen people step up and fill unexpected roles,” she continued. “I’ve marveled at the many small miracles put in place that allowed us to manage and survive in this difficult time. These miracles were brought about by people who were in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing ‘for such a time as this.’”
Sheffield then shared stories from her career and how she was placed in the right place at the right time to help the state of Utah during the pandemic. After graduating from BYU Marriott with her MPA in 1991, Sheffield started working for Intermountain Healthcare. She has always been interested in protecting the community through immunization and chaired the group that developed the Utah State Immunization Information System registry, which she said immensely helped document vaccinations during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
During her remarks, Sheffield, who currently lives in Provo, also spoke about a course she attended during her time in the MPA program that left a lasting impact: an ethics class from Kirk Hart. “Dr. Hart taught principles that have directed my actions in my career and even my personal relationships,” she said. “Dr. Hart was at BYU for ‘such a time as that,’ when I needed his insights.
“To the faculty members of the Romney Institute—you may not know the impact you have on your students, or possibly just one student,” she continued. “But you may well be at BYU Marriott for ‘such a time as this.’ And your students are being prepared for such a time when they will be needed.”
Sheffield directed the final part of her message to the MPA students in attendance. She advised the students that they might not realize at first what purpose they are being prepared for. “I had a statement, attributed to well-known anthropologist Margaret Mead, posted in my office for 20 years,” she said. “The statement read, ‘Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world, indeed, that is all that ever has.’
“I am confident you will change the world, and I am excited for you to have moments in your life’s work where you can say, ‘Oh, who knows but I was put here for such a time as this,’” she added.
The N. Dale Wright Outstanding Alumni award is named after N. Dale Wright, who served as the director of the BYU Marriott MPA program for thirteen years. “Dale exemplifies the qualifications of leadership and service in his own life,” says Lori Wadsworth, the MPA program director. “He was an incredible mentor and friend to students and was known for reaching out and connecting with them individually. Receiving this award is a high honor for our alumni.”
The award is presented annually to an alumnus of the Romney Institute who has demonstrated extraordinary service and leadership in the public and nonprofit sectors, as well as in her community.
Writer: Sarah Calvert