PRAMS/TOTS Project Manager
Maternal and Child Health Service
12 years of service
Got any favorite quotes?
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
~Edward Everett Hale
How did you start working in Public Health?
I began full-time public health work in 2002 in the field of developmental disabilities. I started in direct care and eventually became residential director of a set of group homes. After completing my master’s degree, I began working at the health department in 2006. I started in the county health departments as a disease intervention specialist (with the HIV/STD Service. In short, I did client testing, counseling, referrals, partner notification, and worked outbreaks when needed.
In your role, how do you educate people about public health?
Currently, I get to present information on health topics that specifically affect the maternal and child population. Through the statewide surveys I manage, PRAMS and TOTS, we are able to collect valuable information from mothers about their experiences and health behaviors as well as about their child. We then produce and distribute publications from these data or present to interested groups to highlight issues. I also work on health inequity so I get to do community and provider education on the institutional, environmental, historical, and societal factors that contribute to health outcomes, especially related to infant mortality.
What is the most rewarding experience you have had in public health?
I wouldn’t say there is just one. However, one that stands out to me is an incident when we had a person we suspected was intentionally infecting others with HIV. This person had been named as a partner by dozens of people over several years. As a result of our hard work, this person was presented with a cease and desist order from the commissioner of health. We were also able to get many of the affected partners in to care very early in their diagnosis.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
For me, the most difficult part is the balance between pushing for data-driven decisions/programs while simultaneously acknowledging that sometimes our public health data doesn’t fully capture the nuances and context of health behavior. People are complex and multi-layered, therefore, so are our decision-making and choices surrounding health behaviors. Health behaviors (and therefore health outcomes) do not occur in a vacuum or silo but are influenced by lots of factors. Sometimes these other factors are not quantifiable.
If someone was interested in a public health career (or one in your field), what advice or encouragement would you give them?
Do your research but also talk to someone who is in the public health field. One of the things that drew me to public health was how broad it is, and how many opportunities there are to get involved. I didn’t fully realize this until I started talking to people. Whether it be a nurse, epidemiologist, statistician, health educator, sanitarian, disease intervention specialist, patient care assistant, facility surveyor, or in an administrative or support position, all of these (and more) play a role in improving the health of our communities and state. What other field has such a wide range of positions working toward a common goal? If you’re interested in public health, I guarantee there’s a place for you.