Alumni Highlight –
Hometown: I grew up in Gretna, Nebraska, where my family has been established for nearly four generations.
Current career position: I am currently the supervisor of Communicable Disease Epidemiology with the Douglas County Health Department in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve been with the department since 2003, and since then I’ve had the opportunity to investigate and prevent the ongoing transmission of many emerging diseases, including measles, mumps, H1N1 influenza, tuberculosis, West Nile, listeria, Legionellia, Histoplasmosis, Cyclospora, and many others. I enjoy the ongoing challenges that my job presents with the emergence of new and old infectious diseases. My job allows me to work directly with the community, which has its challenges, but knowing that my staff and I are making a positive difference is both rewarding and personally fulfilling.
My most memorable public health investigation occurred in 2010, when four individuals in Omaha who had not been vaccinated against measles traveled to a state where there were known measles cases, and then returned to Omaha, possibly carrying the infection with them.. Thousands of citizens in Omaha were potentially exposed within a few days by the index case; however, due to public health’s rapid detection and initiation of public health control measures, no additional cases were identified. This investigation proved to be resource intense, but an experience I’ll never forget.
I have also had the opportunity to work with both state and federal agencies on many occasions in the investigation and prevention of infectious disease. Most recently, my staff and I were heavily involved in the ongoing, nationwide outbreak of Cyclospora. In fact, my department’s cluster investigation provided the statistical evidence identifying a contaminated ingredient in the salad mix, which directed the FDA and CDC’s trace back investigation. This was a proud moment for my department and all the staff involved.
What you value most about your time in our program: I value building relationships with professionals from a variety of disciplines, developing lifelong friendships, and acquiring a deeper knowledge of public health. The program also helped develop various skill sets needed for my job today, including public health theory, education and prevention, analytic, epidemiology, and effective communication.
Advice for current students: Get involved with different organizations and groups that promote public health. Explore possible career opportunities, and look for opportunities to develop some on-the-job experience.