KP retirement

From left: Holly Hagle, Pete Luongo, Dawn Lindsay, Kris Pond, Jess Williams, Danielle Leith, Piper Lincoln, Sarah King, Melva Hogan, and Jim Aiello

IRETA is saying farewell to our “employee #1,” Kristine Pond, who retires this week.

When IRETA began as an offshoot of St. Francis Medical Center in 1999, Kris was our first official employee. And as IRETA’s projects and staff–not to mention the healthcare landscape all around us–have changed over the years, Kris has been a key constant.

Although she started as a temp, “week after week, they kept asking me back.”

When she was eventually offered a full-time position, she found she’d aced a recent interview and been offered another job as well–and that office had a toy poodle. Despite the allure of a friendly canine, Kris decided that she liked the idea of working for an organization with an important mission and accepted our offer.

In the beginning, Kris provided support for IRETA’s trainings on evidence-based addiction treatment, which meant preparing printed training materials and traveling all over the state. Nowadays, with our training and outreach primarily online, you’re more likely to find Kris planning and moderating webinars. She even receives fan mail from people hundreds of miles away.

When asked about her retirement plans, Kris said happily, “The plan is no plans.”

She’s always enjoyed travel and looks forward to being able to just hop in the car and drive. She’s been thinking about volunteering with a literacy organization because she loves to read.

Thank you for making IRETA part of your life for the last 14 years, Kris! Enjoy your future adventures.

Another Goodbye

Media Intern Leila

While Kris heads out into the world to eat bonbons and give reading lessons, another IRETA alumna will launch an exciting new chapter at the juncture of substance use and social media.

Leila Giles, our digital media intern, does not appear in the staff picture above because she was (as she so often is) behind the camera. Leila worked with IRETA for over a year, producing videos, writing Facebook posts, and creating our flashy new website.

Before she came to us, she was in Los Angeles interning in the entertainment industry. At IRETA, she discovered she liked learning about substance use.

“I’ve enjoyed learning about the many different paths there are, both in terms of developing substance use disorders and recovering from them,” she said.

Leila will join the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health as a research assistant. There, she’ll study alcohol-related messages in social media, waterpipe and hookah smoking among young adults, and social media as a tool for tracking substance use trends. She’s interested in how to use social media to spread accurate information about substance use to people who would benefit from it.

“I think there’s a lot of potential to use newer media to communicate information about the risks of substance use, especially young people,” she said. “As someone who’s fairly young myself, I know I haven’t heard very many messages about actual risks associated with drugs and alcohol. We either hear, ‘Everyone uses them; they’re fine’ or ‘Blind panic!'”

She said she’s looking forward to learning more about using social media effectively for education and outreach. “It’s not just throwing a hashtag in front of everything,” she said. “There’s more to it.”