Following my graduation from IU in May 2019, I moved to Lincoln, Nebraska to work as a Public Health Associate for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While stationed at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, I began my role on the respiratory disease epidemiology team focusing on flu and RSV surveillance. Just four months after arriving at the health department, I transitioned to full time COVID-19 response efforts. My roles on the response were wide-ranging, demanding, and exceedingly rewarding.
In January 2020 I was trained in the newly established contact tracing protocols the state would execute on all possible cases and contacts, and by February I was traveling around the state to three local health departments that were under my jurisdiction to train their staff members on the same protocol. In the months that followed I worked as a contact tracer, a manager of the contact tracing program, and a COVID-19 data analyst. I was also deployed as a federal resource in December 2020 to assist the Ohio Department of Health and Human Services with the maintenance of their own statewide contact tracing program.
My time in these roles was formative and led to my decision to pursue my Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill where I am preparing to enter my final semester. During my graduate school career, I am fortunate to have had ample opportunity to further develop my professional skills outside of the classroom. In Fall of 2021, I joined the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services where I manage the North Carolina Chemical Preparedness and Response Surveillance Program to track acute emergency releases of toxic substances around the state and assess their impact to human health and public safety. In 2022 I had the opportunity to work with the Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Ecology Lab (IDEEL) on their studies evaluating malaria transmission. Specifically, my work focused on understanding the human reservoir of malaria and how infectious individuals who were asymptomatic were infecting mosquitoes. Finally, this academic year I have the opportunity to assist in teaching graduate level coursework in epidemiology to students in other public health focus areas ranging from health equity to health policy. While these students may not pursue epidemiology as a career path, an understanding of epidemiologic data is crucial to making decisions at all levels of public health to ensure resources, expertise, and information are allocated and distributed in a way that yields the highest impact possible on human health.
The first few years of my professional experience, like many others, were shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I would never have discovered by interest in this work without my experiences in the Human Biology Department at IU.