Over the past three decades, Julie Dodge has worked as a social worker, a small business owner, a consultant and an academic. What hasn’t changed is her focus: building healthy communities through evidence-based design, community strength and equity.
Throughout her career Dodge has worked to improve the systems that lead to disparate outcomes for Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities in health, in education and in their interaction with the criminal justice system.
She has worked in culturally specific services for Native American and African American residents, coordinated services in multicultural and low-income communities, designed curricula to teach spiritual and cultural diversity skills, and provided training for law enforcement, nonprofit and public organizations.
Last month she was appointed interim director of Multnomah County’s Behavioral Health Division. She takes the place of Ebony Clarke, who was appointed interim Health Department director.
“I am so excited to have Julie on board in this capacity as I step into the Interim Health Department director role,” Clarke told staff in a December newsletter announcing the hire. “I have full confidence in her abilities to continue to strengthen and enhance the amazing work you all show up to do every day.”
Dodge holds a bachelor’s degree in Christian Education from Biola University, a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California-Los Angeles, and a Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives from George Fox University.
Dodge worked for LifeWorks NW from 1995 through 2006, when she started a consulting practice working with nonprofit and public entities. She accepted a full-time position on the faculty at Concordia University in 2012 and served as dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences from 2018 until the school closed in May 2020.
This fall Dodge worked for the Oregon Health Authority — on a project funded through the CARES Act — to help the agency define what it means to “lead with race” and develop tangible benchmarks to measure success.
Dodge said she wants to continue Clarke’s work at Behavioral Health to build a more collaborative, less siloed division that places race at the forefront of its work.
“It’s not just words,” Dodge said. “None of this is new, so let’s make it happen.”
Through decades in social work and as a consultant, Dodge has watched organizations applaud their culturally specific services even when the only thing culturally appropriate about those programs were the people doing the work.
“Not the structure, not the treatment,” she said. “You would see Latinx people serving Latinx families. But no one is adapting the model. That really did start my journey.”
Dodge completed her doctoral work on cultural empathy, developing a curriculum used in universities that prompts students to consider how to use cultural empathy to design programs and systems.
“It’s about starting conversation,” she said. “I can’t say, ‘This is how I will do it.’ The only way to get that understanding is in relationship. This is an act we do together.”