Alumni Highlight – Chad T. Wetzel graduated from COPH in 2013 with a MPH in Epidemiology.
Hometown: Grand Island, NE
Current Career Position: I am currently an Epidemiologist in the Communicable Disease and Epidemiology section of the Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) in Omaha, Nebraska. My main responsibilities are to investigate and track reportable diseases and outbreaks, prevent further transmission of infectious diseases in our community such as measles, influenza, and tuberculosis, and provide epidemiology reports for the community and public health partners.
Because I was interested in a career as an Epidemiologist at a health department, I completed my Service Learning and Capstone components of the MPH program with the Douglas County Health Department. The Capstone project provided a great opportunity to gain invaluable public health experience and training at a local public health organization. I was thrilled to then have an opportunity for a permanent position at the DCHD. I am able to utilize my education and the skills I have developed to effectively interact with the local community. My favorite aspect of my job is that every day is something new, making for a challenging, yet rewarding environment.
My most memorable experiences since joining the DCHD revolve around large outbreaks and emerging diseases. Our department was heavily involved with the Cyclospora outbreak in the summer of 2013, and was involved with the recent measles cases in Nebraska that were associated with a multistate outbreak. Along with having the opportunity to work on several outbreaks with state and federal agencies, one of my most memorable experiences was being involved with the DCHD’s role in Ebola patients being treated at the Nebraska Medical Center. Involvement with the public health response and with the biocontainment unit at UNMC was a very unique opportunity.
What do you value most about your time at COPH? Public health is a very broad and complex field. The MPH program allowed me to strengthen my general understanding of public health while developing specific skills for a career I was interested in pursuing. I took the introductory epidemiology class my first year in the program and quickly realized that this core science of public health was where I wanted to focus my education. The MPH program provides an environment where one can strengthen their current understanding as well as acquire knowledge in areas of public health they are less familiar with, making them better overall public health practitioners.
Advice for Current Students: I highly recommend taking advantage of opportunities to become involved with activities and organizations that are in line with your career interests. Making connections and networking with other public health professionals during your time at school is highly beneficial when seeking future employment. I also recommend finding a mentor that is willing to spend the time to give advice and support you in your pursuits. Whether it is a manager, advisor or other professional relationship, having someone that you feel comfortable with, you trust and is willing to offer guidance for your career is an extremely valuable asset.