Our Stories: Judy Schmidt

by Janet Meyer

So much happens behind the scenes in a congregation like ours. People serve in all sorts of ways that others may never see, to ensure things go smoothly. This is true with administration, technology, audio visual work, even making coffee. Since March, a team of people have been meeting regularly to consider how the Fellowship might keep our congregation safe during the pandemic. And this group has relied on one member in particular who brings an impressive resume and expertise to the meetings of the COVID-19 Response Team – Judy Schmidt.

Public health expert Judy Schmidt demonstrates proper mask technique

Judy spent 10 years working at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the Public Health and Immunization area, educating providers and answering questions from the public. To have someone with this experience available to us to research the science, interpret the data, and help us explain it to the congregation in a way that is relevant and accessible is an incredible asset. We are so grateful for her.

Judy is a Colorado native, growing up in Englewood, and earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing at CU. Turns out she likes school — a lot. She followed her curiosity and “went with the flow” over her long career, eventually earning two master’s degree (one in management from the University of Redlands, and one in nursing from CU Denver) and a doctorate in education from the University of San Francisco.

At her high school reunion, she said she’d done just about everything there was to do with nursing. She started out as a nurse in Obstetrics/ Labor and Delivery, then went into management, taught nursing at the Community College of Denver and later at Emory University in Atlanta. She worked as a flight nurse, and even provided expert legal testimony in court. She was recruited by the CDC, which was very different than nursing. She traveled to many other states, worked with people from all over the country, and even abroad with the World Health Organization in Ethiopia. She retired from the CDC in 2008 to care for her mother and aunt in their later years.
Although she grew up as a Methodist, she was happy to discover UUism, joined the Fellowship in 2016, and found the freedom to explore refreshing. She’d been serving on the hospitality team before joining the COVID task force in March. In addition, she sang in choir and attended humanism meetings.

When asked how her professional background has helped her during the pandemic, Judy says that, since she worked in the infectious disease and immunization division, she understands how public health works, how disease is followed statistically and what it takes to make a vaccine. Especially when the pandemic first started, she knew where to go to get information, and how to interpret what was available. While some people complained about the public health professionals “changing their minds” about what was effective in containing the spread of the virus, Judy understood that they were discovering things about the contagion, and being transparent as they learned. Usually this work is done behind the scenes. But with this fast-moving, highly-contagious virus, they were putting things out there in a very public way, making headlines. She gives her former colleagues credit for putting out lots of information on their website with good graphics. She is impressed, too, with the folks on the Fellowship’s COVID-19 Response Team, who now know where to find reliable information, how to interpret what is put out, and who have become remarkably sophisticated in their understanding of the science. Of course, her leadership in this endeavor has been key.

Judy says she needs to live near mountains or an ocean. As an avid golfer, skier, hiker, and scuba diver, she likes to be outside and active. You’d think there wouldn’t be many scuba divers in a landlocked state like Colorado, but Judy’s hiking friends organize recreational scuba trips through dive shops. In 2017 she had quite an adventure when she went on a dive trip to Cuba supporting some students with their research projects. She and the others were supposed to live on a boat for a week as they helped the students with their underwater projects. After only two days, President Trump announced that the US was once again breaking ties with Cuba. They were held for a couple days by the Cuban police before being released and flying home.

And how has Judy herself coped with the last few months of the pandemic? Her 400-member skiing and hiking club had to cancel some big events this year, which was disappointing. Luckily, she was able to play nine holes of golf a couple times a week over the summer with her women’s league at Highland Hills, which was a lifesaver for an outdoor person like her.
Judy is single and lives alone in Broomfield. Besides her outdoor pursuits, she enjoys seeing her family who live along the front range when she can, as well as her many friends. She has really liked meeting new people at the Fellowship during the Zoom coffee hour following services on Sunday. If you find her in a breakout room, be sure to take the time to get to know this fascinating woman with an impressive background.