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From Trauma to Teaching

A Kaiser Permanente senior health educator’s journey from being a sexual assault victim to helping other survivors. Pictured, Candice Mcaleavey, left, senior health educator, and Angela Kuo, MD.

At 16 years old, Candice Mcaleavey had an experience that changed her life. She was sexually assaulted in her hometown of Ceres, California, by 2 men she knew. It caused her years of trauma that were exacerbated when 5 years later she needed to participate in a trial against the men who assaulted her.

“It was unbelievably difficult,” Mcaleavey said. “I was so young when it happened and in a small town where everyone knew about it.”

This wasn’t the first experience with violence Mcaleavey had. Growing up, she frequently witnessed violence between her mom and dad in a household of 3 sisters. In fact, that was her first memory.

Mcaleavey’s history has shaped who she is and is part of why she became a senior health educator for the Family Violence Prevention Program (FVP) at Kaiser Permanente Fresno. Outside of project management for the program, Mcaleavey consults practitioners on their work with members.

‘I help our providers step into [survivors’] shoes.’

“I’m able to come from a place of experience and understanding for our patients,” she said. “People who have been through traumatic experiences need to be talked to and treated differently. I help our providers step into their shoes.”

Mcaleavey also helps lead the FVP ambassador program where employees from different departments volunteer to champion and bring awareness to the program’s work. In collaboration with Angela Kuo, MD, lead physician of the FVP for the Fresno area, Mcaleavey developed curriculum and trained over 50 nurses, physicians, and medical assistants for the ambassador program.

She unites and motivates employees with her passion for violence prevention, said Stephen Case, director of Health Education for Kaiser Permanente Fresno.

“People respond to her passion,” Case said. “Not only is she great at equipping our ambassadors and physicians with effective tools and resources, but when they realize how much she cares, they are more apt to receive it.”

How She Got Here

The mom of 2 has been a health educator for 5 years, but her journey to Kaiser Permanente was long — and involved a taco truck. After a couple failed attempts to land a job at the organization, Mcaleavey got her master’s degree in health administration at the University of Phoenix online. She then became a nutritional educator for the Central California Food Bank where she drove a 15-foot truck with a full kitchen inside and performed cooking demonstrations to live audiences.

“There were so many good memories in that truck,” she recalled.

‘People respond to her passion.’

But it was one demonstration that led her to where she is today. Performing for a Kaiser Permanente Fresno Live Well Be Well event, little did Mcaleavey know she was cooking for her future colleagues. It wasn’t long after that she was invited to an interview.

Although helping others is Mcaleavey’s passion, her work as a health educator allowed her to understand her own suppressed trauma and ways to work through it. She sees a therapist weekly and calls herself a walking billboard for the program’s services.

“It forced me to get help, and today I am empowered by my past experiences,” she said. “Every time I advise our providers, I feel confident and know I am helping them, our patients, and myself at 16.”

Head to KP.org for more information on Kaiser Permanente’s Health Education resources.

Tags

domestic violence
This Post Has 18 Comments
  1. You are an awesome, beautiful women inside and out; an inspiration to ALL! A light in this world!! You are my hero!! You are everyone’s hero!! Thank you so much for sharing your story, Candace!! Infinite Love and Appreciation to YOU!! Thank you!!!!!!!

  2. Candice,

    To the “hero” that had the “courage” to say, “it stops today!” You are an amazing human being who has become stronger through not allowing something like this to destroy or define who you are!
    The world is a better place, because you are in it!

    Teddy

  3. Candice- what can I say? Listening to your story during our trip a few years ago on our way to the DV conference was awe-inspiring, but seeing it written and published for everyone to read is very courageous. Keep on doing what your passion directs you to do. You are a wonderful mother, colleague, and overall human being.

  4. Wow, Candice. I always knew you were awesome, and now I’m even more amazed by you. Super proud of how you handled such a horrible experience and how you now help others survive. Kaiser is so lucky to have you, and I’m lucky to be able to work with you!

  5. Thank you, Candice, for your story. I was a victim of a violent crime in my home 17 years ago for which I suppressed my trauma for a long time due to not having anybody to talk to that understood what I was feeling or going thru. To know that you’re not alone makes a great big difference in the courage a person needs to survive. SO thank you from the bottom of my heart for all those who will never have to feel alone.

  6. Thank you, Candice, for your perseverance and strength, and belief in change and in your ability to make positive change happen within you and within so many others. You are an amazing lady and inspire me to work for change and to be as passionate as you are for whole healing and health. Thank you!

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. There are so many people who do not realize they are not alone in their trauma, they suffer alone, and some are never able to break that cycle. People like you are the key to helping others overcome a trauma and move forward using a bad thing to help others….

  8. Wow!! Congrats, Ms. Candice!! I am truly inspired by your COURAGE because Courage is not a Reaction, it’s a Decision. Furthermore, I am so BLESSED to have met you personally… I am beyond thankful for how you have exemplified TENACITY throughout your Journey!!! You have been And Will continue to be the WIND BENEATH so many wings!!! Keep up the great work, keep turning your PAIN2POWER POWER!!!! In closing, I just wanna say “I am so glad we are on the same team”🦾🏀TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK Look forward to seeing you soon!! BLESSINGS!

    “TO THE WORLD YOU MAY BE 1 PERSON BUT TO 1 PERSON YOU MAY BE THE WORLD”
    Ruthie Bolton

  9. This was such a great story of triumph. Trauma is never an easy thing to go through, and it makes all the difference to be able to speak to someone who has had some of the same experiences. I admire the drive you had to persevere and find it AMAZING that you chose to use that drive to help others who need it. Thank you for sharing such an inspirational story. Keep up the good work.

  10. Thank you, Candice, for this inspirational testimony. So may of us have experienced your story, most not able to share it; be it too painful or many other reasons. I applaud your courage.

  11. Candice, you are such an inspiration!!!! I know for you this is a passion. Much admiration to you…..you DO make a difference. Keep up the great work!!!!!

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. What a beautiful testimony that teaches others, raises awareness, and inspires victims of violence towards healing. Way to go, Candace!

  13. Candice, your resilience to the painful past is admirable. You bring light to so many lives. Keep up the good work! Sona, SRF

  14. Great story. The inner strength of victims is far greater than they can ever imagine. With the help of others who understand and at times share the experience, it can all be far less traumatizing. Also, the culture around sexual abuse/assault is no longer one of shame. Hopefully healing will be more of a focus and more programs will be created.

  15. Candice, Thank you for sharing your story. It really moved me and thank you for all that you do for our Kaiser Family. In gratefulness to you.

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