How have you contributed to one of CDC’s priorities through your ASPPH/CDC Fellowship assignment? Explain what you have done that has “made a difference” at CDC and benefitted public health in the United States.
Through my fellowship at the Office of Global Affairs (OGA), I have been able to contribute to CDC’s priority of “Securing Global Health and America’s Preparedness”. OGA is the diplomatic voice of HHS that fosters critical global relationships, coordinates international engagement across HHS and the United States (U.S.) government, and provides leadership and expertise in global health diplomacy and policy to contribute to a safer, healthier world. While the office mainly focuses on international affairs, this directly impacts public health in the United States because a threat anywhere, is a threat everywhere. In OGA, I am located in the Office of Pandemics and Emerging Threats, primarily working on the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) portfolio.
The AMR team represents the U.S. in the global negotiations that set the worldwide agenda to address AMR and we coordinate across U.S. agencies to inform policies and programs that could determine the viability of some of our most widely–used antibiotics. Each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people are infected with AMR pathogens and more than 35,000 people die as a result. Without careful stewardship and action, we risk losing the ability to treat common infections and control public health threats. Aptly termed “the silent pandemic”, AMR has the potential to affect any one of us, at any point in our lives. The AMR portfolio at OGA ensures AMR remains high on the international agenda and we continue to prioritize and collaborate on AMR efforts with our domestic and global partners.
I have been able to support these efforts and make a difference by coordinating communications among the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) interagency, increasing high–level social media promotion of activities among the Departments and Agencies on the CARB Task Force, and continuing to push forward on efforts to establish the U.S. as a global leader in AMR.
In addition to my role on the AMR team, I act as an Action Officer for the U.S. International Health Regulations National Focal Point (IHR NFP) Program to support assessment, reporting and coordination efforts on public health events, including emerging/reemerging diseases, such as the COVID–19 virus, contaminated medical products, and vaccine preventable diseases, etc. The work of the U.S. IHR NFP has contributed to global health security policy development and recognition that communicating the evidence–based possibility of a major public health event is critical to protecting U.S. and global populations from future public health threats. In this capacity, I have run the processes to notify the WHO/PAHO on updated U.S. COVID–19 travel orders and requirements, notify the WHO/PAHO on a case of Monkeypox that constituted a potential public health emergency of international concern, report weekly data to WHO/PAHO, and have supported updating the manuals for the U.S. IHR NFP Program.
How will your fellowship experience shape your career?
Prior to the fellowship, I had always wanted to end up at the CDC in some form or fashion, but I never had a good idea of how. I wasn’t very interested in going down the medical or PhD route, so in my mind, that left health policy. However, in school my health policy courses largely focused on all the ins and outs of health insurance, so I didn’thave a good grasp on what it actually encompassed. Now, not only has the fellowship provided me with a valuable insight into national and international health policy, it has unlocked a new passion for me. It has shown me a new way to make a difference in public health on both an individual and population scale – a way to help the most people as possible. This experience has provided me with an opportunity to use the knowledge I gained in graduate school to make practical and tangible change. I never thought I would end up enjoying or wanting to pursue a career in health policy, but I feel I have finally found a field that pours into me as much as I pour into it – a career that leaves me motivated rather than drained. While where I end up exactly is up in the air, this fellowship has provided me a new path to follow. My hope and goal for this fellowship is to become more comfortable with the federal job application process and gain as much experience as I can at the federal level so I can continue to pursue global health policy, hopefully focused on infectious disease prevention and preparedness.
Describe specifically some of the relationships/partnerships you have built through the fellowship and how those relationships have helped/will help you in your career.
Most notably, I have been able to build relationships and partnerships with individuals working within different HHS and U.S. government departments and agencies. Public health requires the involvement and collaboration with many different sectors and fields, especially for AMR. One Health – the concept that human, animal, and environmental health are all connect – is extremely important when it comes to AMR efforts. Through this work, I have been able to connect with and further my knowledge and understanding of these different fields and learn how we can further amplify and support one another’s work. Going in hand with this, the fellowship has allowed me to foster relationships with a number of individuals from international governments and organizations. Another initiative we are involved in at OGA is the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) – a group of representatives from countries, international and non–governmental organizations, and the private sector that have come together to achieve the vision of a world safe and secure from global health threats posed by infectious diseases. The AMR team represented the U.S. as we chaired the GHSA AMR Action Package this past year, where we formed and facilitated connections to improve countries’ national action plans and good practices concerning AMR. Through that experience, I was introduced to organizations that I did not know existed and created life–long connections with individuals working for the betterment of public and global health.
In addition, the fellowship introduced me to the individuals who joined the fellowship with me. As I was the only one placed at HHS in Washington D.C. in a policy role, I have been able to discuss and learn from my cohort about their roles and responsibilities at their fellowship placements. We all share the same goal of seeing each other succeed, so we regularly have check–in calls to keep in touch and share our highlights and challenges.
Finally, this fellowship brought me back full circle to my introduction to public health. While in high school, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a CDC Quarantine Officer who introduced me to public health and everything it entailed. Since that meeting, I have been actively trying to progress further in the field of public health. Through this fellowship, I inadvertently crossed paths with this individual again while working on the same project and have been able to reconnect. While small, this connection further established the importance of networks and partnerships for me.