Rachel Zahn, MPH

Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health
Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences
Office of Associate Director of Communication; Division of Communication Services (CDC-INFO)

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.

My fellowship position sought to keep the public and health professionals informed about public health information and emergencies in a timely manner. By working with experts at CDC to provide individuals with the health information that they need to make informed decisions, my position affected people throughout the nation and abroad. During the COVID19 pandemic, this was especially important, as the CDCINFO contact center that worked with my team reached unprecedented levels of calls and emails from concerned people wanting to make sure they had correct information to protect themselves and their loved ones.

How will your fellowship experience shape your career?

My fellowship experience advanced my education on how to be an effective communicator. Not only was my fellowship based in communications, but it also forced me to interact with people throughout CDC and the CDC INFO contact center at varying levels of authority, as well as members of the public themselves in some cases. Through opportunities to provide trainings to other CDC employees, lead calls with members of CDC programs, attend two site visits to CDCINFO’s contracted contact center, and work with employees throughout CDC to respond to questions from the public and health officials, I gained skills that I will use in my current and future positions. In addition, having the opportunity to meet so many different people at CDC with interests similar to and different from my own encouraged me to think about my next steps and what was possible in terms of my long term career goals.

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.

Building relationships is a key part of many jobs. In a professional capacity, I made strong connections with my team members that I plan to sustain. My fellowship mentor and another team member wrote me recommendations for my current job, and I am thankful that I was able to work with them. While I was at CDC, I also joined the Mental Health Workgroup, and someone who had served on a committee with me in this group reached out to me after I had left CDC, since we had common interests. In addition, I keep in touch with a couple of the people from my fellowship cohort, and we encourage each other professionally. Throughout my fellowship experience, I was able to meet people who were fascinating, made me think about my professional goals, and were willing to support me in professional decisions.

In addition, in my current position, I work with grantees throughout the United States. My ASPPH fellowship and my experience interacting with CDC programs, taskforces, and outside entities in a professional and leadership capacity provided me with a foundation for interacting with these grantees. I realized that taking the time to understand the grantees and their experiences can help me be more effective in this position.