If you’re hiking a trail in Capitol Reef National Park, you might find a woman passing out sunscreen or a hat to protect you from skin cancer. Her generosity is borne from a love of Utah’s outdoors, and a concern for those she finds there.
The ray protection gift-giver is Jane Ostler, a Utah Valley University alumna and an adjunct instructor at UVU. She’s also a health educator, patient and public educator, with the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.
“We love it when people are outside,” Ostler said. “That means they are being active, which is a step toward cancer prevention. But they also need to be safe in the sun. The sun is wonderful to play in. It is important to be active, but we have to be vigilant in taking care of our skin.”
She graduated from UVU in 2013 with a Bachelor’s of science in public and community health with an emphasis in health education. She went on to earn a master’s of science in health promotion and education in 2016 from the University of Utah. She has been working at the Huntsman Cancer Institute for four and a half years.
As an adjunct instructor at her alma mater, Ostler is also currently teaching an online course in personal health and wellness.
“I am passionate about people and creating an awareness about things they do to improve their health and well-being,” she said. “The people make my job great — those I can teach and those who can teach me things in return. It is an exciting aspect of my job.”
Utah has the highest rate of melanoma skin cancer in the country, Ostler said, and she feels strongly about lowering those numbers through prevention education.
“A lot of people are really surprised that skin cancer can be deadly. It happens to young people as well as old people. It occurs quite frequently in the state of Utah.”
She educates others in several ways. This is the second summer she has spent time at UVU’s Capitol Reef Field Station, where she teaches both students and the public.
“I am so eager and excited to be able to teach about sun safety to students in collaboration with the wellness center,” she said. “We all go out and do health events in the local area. There is a fair held by Wayne County and had a booth with lots of different information, including cancer prevention, suicide prevention, mental health issues, how to get good sleep, and biometric screening.”
Opportunity for education can also be found side by side with fresh produce at the farmers market in Torrey.
“A lot of local residents as well as tourists come and get information from Utah Valley University and Huntsman Cancer Institute,” she said.
But instruction doesn’t stop there.
“We are always finding ways to educate people,” she said. ”It could be a ranger or someone on a trail. It is focused on community engagement.”
“We were able to meet with Capitol Reef National Park’s superintendent,” she said. “We were excited to learn about her concern for sun safety on behalf of the employees. She is working very hard to make sure her employees are safe.”
When Ostler is not at Capitol Reef, she is still teaching. Her work at Huntsman takes her across Utah and the Mountain West. At each stop, she promotes cancer prevention, including tobacco cessation, healthy nutrition, physical activity, cancer screening and sun safety.
She travels for her work, but doesn’t get far from her roots.
“When I graduated from UVU I was sad to think that I had to leave the brilliant people who gave me the foundations for a successful start into public health,” she said. “For me, UVU has always been a place of learning, of growth, and an energetic place to explore new frontiers for collaboration. As I look back I realize that I take UVU with me wherever I go.
“In my mind, I still hear words of encouragement and wisdom from my instructors when I sit in board rooms, interact with the public, and in quiet moments when I wonder if I am doing enough. If my job gets stressful, I take a few moments to meditate and transport myself back to the student center, the waterfall, or library on UVU campus.
“It has been an incredibly journey with UVU. I am lucky indeed, to have gained a wonderful education, friends who happen to be colleagues, and a space where service is valued above all else.”