UCF Student Named PR Pro of the Year

Story by Nicholson News

Kena Lewis, left, celebrates with FPRA Chapter President Alayna Curry.

Kena Lewis, APR, has been recognized by the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) Orlando Chapter as the 2017 PR Pro of the Year. Lewis graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1982. Now a UCF graduate student studying communication with an emphasis in mass communication, Lewis is a seasoned professional who is director of public affairs and media relations for Orlando Health.

“I’m just grateful to have had so many tremendous opportunities in the field,” Lewis said. “I’m also grateful for the many mentors who shared their knowledge, skills and abilities with me to help me become the professional that I am today.”

Members of the chapter’s leadership and several of Lewis’ colleagues surprised her with the news at a small reception last month.

“As president of the Orlando Chapter of FPRA, it was such a joy to learn that my director at Orlando Health would be the recipient of our chapter’s prestigious award,” said Alayna Curry. “During my time as an Ad/PR student at UCF, Kena was my first internship supervisor. She taught me so much about PR then, and continues to do so today. She’s a true leader in our community, and I’m proud to work alongside her!”

Lewis joins a remarkable group of people in the public relations industry, many of whom are UCF alumni. 2016’s recipient of the award was Nicholson School of Communication Associate Instructor and Advertising & Public Relations coordinator Joan McCain, who is widely regarded by those in NSC.

As a PR professional in the health industry, Lewis led the crisis communication plan during the Pulse tragedy in June 2016. “From a professional perspective, it was a once-in-a-career-type event. From a personal perspective, I hope that it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Lewis said. “Within a few hours of the first shots, hundreds of media outlets from around the world descended on Orlando Regional Medical Center, which is our hospital that is home to the area’s only Level One Trauma Center. My team and I set up interviews with every major national network in the U.S. The coverage we received in both traditional and ‘new’ media was unbelievable.”

Orlando Health is a not-for-profit health care organization and a community-based network of hospitals, physician practices, diagnostic centers and other care centers in the Orlando region. Lewis’ team is made of four managers, an administrative assistant, an intern and herself. The intern does as much as anyone else on the team, according to Lewis.

“We have a paid intern every fall, spring and summer semester. They do almost everything we do: write, pitch, work on minor issues and attend meetings,” said Lewis, who provides lead support on issues management. She and her team also handle proactive media outreach and responsive press inquiries.

Lewis said there was a lot to be done regarding the Pulse tragedy and helping others. “Once things quieted down, I started to receive requests to speak at other hospitals or healthcare conferences. I have done a fair amount of traveling to other healthcare systems around the country sharing the Orlando Health experience with them. I am happy to do whatever I can to help other healthcare systems’ media team be prepared for an event like this.”

Lewis already has an impressive résumé. Her background and public relations accreditation make her stand out, but she has decided to continue her education at UCF. She is studying to earn her master’s degree in communication with an emphasis on mass communication.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Lewis said. “I’ll probably just keep doing what I’m doing until I retire from full-time work. Then, I’ll look for some place where I can work as an adjunct professor and maybe do a bit of consulting. I eventually want to teach at the college level.”

Lewis said there are many things about this field that she loves. We are sure that with her education and experience, she will go far.

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