Spokane Journal of Business

2018 Rising Stars: Christina VerHeul

WSU alum returns to alma mater for new position, opportunity

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-—Natasha Nellis
Christina VerHeul, communications director at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, had worked in the hospitality industry in Nashville, Tenn., before taking the job with the young medical school.

Christina VerHeul, communications director at Washington State University’s Spokane-based Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, says she doesn’t take a moment for granted since returning last year to Spokane.

“It has been one of the most rewarding phases of my career to come back to my home town … and to get to be a part of leading my city and my alma mater to its next phase,” says VerHeul, 34.

In her position, VerHeul heads up all communications, public relations, and marketing efforts for WSU’s new medical school, including working with conventional and social media, pitching news stories, and issuing press releases.

“All advertising campaigns come through this office,” she says. “I’m focusing on getting the word out across the state. I also have the support of an events coordinator.”

She’s also working on various initiatives with the medical school dean, faculty, and staff, as well as the donor-relations team.

“There’s really no area of the college that I don’t touch in some capacity to support their communications efforts,” she says.

VerHeul, who was raised in Spokane and graduated from North Central High School, earned a bachelor’s degree at WSU in 2006 in public relations, with a minor in marketing.

She immediately went to work in the Tacoma, Wash., area where she was employed in the energy and architecture industries. In 2010, she relocated to Nashville, where she worked in the hospitality industry and was most recently a vice president of marketing and consulting for a health care consulting firm.

“It was an exciting time to be in Nashville,” VerHeul says. “I got some good perspective on customer service and the entire service industry working with restaurants, hotels, tourism, and travel.”

VerHeul says she returned to Spokane specifically for the opportunity to help nurture the new medical school.

“It’s fun to be on the ground level of what WSU is doing,” she says. “We have the opportunity to do something different than other medical schools across the county that have been doing the same thing for 100-plus years. With the way that the medical school is changing the way we’re teaching medical students, we’re in an exciting
transition period.”

For example, she says the new medical school is attuned specifically to the needs of Washington state.

“We’re focused on community-based education,” she says. “We’re focused on rural and underserved communities. We’re shaping young people to be my doctor and your doctor.”

VerHeul says she’s fortunate to have worked under leaders who have modeled being the kind of person and leader she wants to be as much as they have shared business aptitude.

“It’s about having a lot of empathy and compassion and also empowering my team and giving them a lot of autonomy,” she says. “I trust my team to do the right things and do some great work. Those were the kinds of things modeled to me.”

While starting a new medical school presents a lot of challenges, VerHeul says it’s a fun place to work, especially when she meets medical students.

“They’re just so enthusiastic; it’s hard not to maintain that enthusiasm,” she says.

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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