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African Americans in Public Health
Not all of our best story ideas are about diseases and health issues. Inspire your readers by featuring the story of CDC's African-American employees, who bring their experience and culture to their work in public health at CDC. They come from all over the world to work as economists, microbiologists, epidemiologists, scientists and administrators. Here are just a few stories of CDC's African-American employees working at the forefront of public health:
Disease Detectives on the Go: CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service
Here are a few female disease detectives who work on diverse health issues ranging from HIV and AIDS, global health, rabies, heart disease and stroke, and physical activity. From Left to Right: Christina Dorell, MD, MPH; Nykiconia Preaceley, DrPH, MPH; Kis Robertson, DVM, MPH; Ashleigh May, PhD, MS; Latetia Moore, PhD, MSPH.
What do puzzles and public health have in common? CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service. EIS officers, also known as disease detectives, are experts at putting together the puzzle pieces of public health. Numbering more than 2,700 worldwide, the EIS is a 2-year postgraduate program for health professionals interested in epidemiology. Epidemiology, or detecting diseases, is one of the most important aspects of public health. EIS officers come from all over, approximately 20 current officers are from countries other than the United States, and approximately 60 percent are women. People of color and minorities make up 25 to 30 percent of each class and contribute by working on diverse health issues from all across the agency.
Featured African-American Leadership & Experts
Henry S. Bishop
Microbiologist, CGH/DPDM (Centers for Global Health/ Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria)
Anyone who thinks a career in science is dull hasn't met Henry Bishop. Bishop's work runs the gamut from performing diagnostic evaluations of specimens in the morphology reference lab to helping out on weekends in the maintenance of colonies of mosquitoes for research to being part of the DPDx project. The morphology lab has the challenge of diagnosing parasitic diseases by actually looking at the parasites and making a determination based on morphologic features.
"DPDx is an Internet-based vehicle for diagnosing and teaching parasitology," Bishop explained, his enthusiasm for the program evident. The DPDx project includes a website which is constantly evolving, because information on parasitology changes, so it is an ongoing project. The DPDx project has taken Bishop and his colleagues to several states across the U.S. and to other countries like Brazil, Haiti, Rwanda, and Mozambique were they conduct workshops on diagnosing parasitic diseases with malaria being one of the main targets.
A unique opportunity came to Bishop when the Oprah Winfrey Show contacted his Division inquiring if they had any worms that they could loan them for a segment of the show with Dr Oz regarding parasites. The request made it to Bishop who responded that they did but he would prefer to deliver them in person. The result was a VIP trip to Chicago to the show and a seat in the audience! The segment showed Dr Oz and Ms. Winfrey holding (with gloves on) a tapeworm that exceeded 15 feet in length. Bishop also conducts “show-and-tell” talks and demonstrations at local schools to try to inspire children to consider a career in science, specifically parasitology.
Melissa Creary, MPH
Health Scientist, Division of Blood Disorders, NCBDDD
"I was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at the age three. Many people are not aware of some of the limitations that the disease can cause and there have been many challenges, but, I have always thought of my disease as a blessing. It has molded my life and has made me who I am."
Melissa currently serves as a Health Scientist coordinating activities for a pilot program as part of a Hemophilia data collection system. She also co-leads her division's effort in developing internal and external collaborations for enhanced research and the development of a national hemoglobinopathies program in sickle cell disease (SCD) and thalassemia across the agency.
"Never before has there been a national system to focus on the collection of information for sickle cell. This disease is one of the most common inherited blood disorders in the United States, but there is still so much we don't know. I'm happy to be apart of such an initiative and know that CDC can help close many public health gaps seen in this population."
Donatus Ekwueme, PhD
Senior Health Economist, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, NCCDPHP
CDC health economists like Dr. Donatus Ekweume estimate the burden of disease and the effectiveness of prevention measures. The need for health economists at CDC has grown in tandem with the cost of health care. As costs have grown, so has the interest in prevention, and economic analyses that can help justify prevention programs.
Dr. Ekwueme studies the economic ramifications of cancer screening programs. Much of his attention now is focused on estimating the economics of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, a federally-funded cancer screening program that provides support and assistance to uninsured and underserved low-income women 18-64 years for cervical screening, and 40-64 years for breast screening and diagnostic services.
Michelle Owens-Gary, PhD
Behavioral Scientist, Division of Diabetes Translation, NCCDPHP
A passion for women's health issues and family dynamics were factors that attracted Dr. Michelle Owens-Gary to work on a CDC diabetes study in 2001. "The study focused on diabetes and the family environment. I was interested in learning more about CDC's work in this area and translating the science related to diabetes into community action for behavior change," recalled Dr. Owens-Gary, a clinical psychologist who worked as a staff psychologist at a children's hospital and as an assistant professor before joining the agency.
Her current job includes serving as the team leader for the National Public Health Initiative on Diabetes and Women's Health, and as a team member on the National Diabetes Education Program. The Initiative is currently working on a project related to gestational diabetes. With the National Diabetes Education Program, Dr. Owens-Gary provides expertise on subjects related to children's health, diabetes and depression, and women's health.
Althea Grant, PhD
Chief, Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Division of Blood Disorders, NCBDDD
Althea Grant, PhD, is Chief of the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch in the Division of Blood Disorders of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. She does epidemiological research and surveillance on the variety of blood disorders, with a particular focus on hemophilia, hemochromatosis, thalassemia and sickle cell disease.
Dr. Grant has specifically been recognized for her contribution to developing public health programs and resources for sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait. She serves as CDC’s Project Director for the RuSH program, the first population-based public health surveillance system for sickle cell disease and thalassemia. She also received a Commendation Medal from the US Public Health Service in recognition for developing programs to improve the health of individuals affected by sickle cell disease.
Montrece Ransom, JD, MPH
Senior Public Health Analyst and Lawyer, Office of Program Development, Office of the Director, NCEH/ATSDR
"There is no public health without the law," says Montrece Ransom, who joined CDC as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2001. "From the establishment of a health department to the passing of a clean indoor air ordinance, the success of many—if not all—public health interventions hinges significantly on appropriate application and enforcement of law and other legal tools."
Ms.Ransom's responsibilities have included serving as the CDC's liaison to the American Bar Association, where she helped establish a unique partnership focusing on long-term cooperative efforts and joint activities, and as director of CDC's former annual Public Health Law Conference. She is currently working on a project entitled, The National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures. The goal of this project is o develop an action agenda that can help government agencies and other organizations strengthen their efforts to protect the public from harmful chemical exposures. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, earned a Masters of Public Health from Emory University, and holds an undergraduate degree in Speech Communications from Columbus State University, Columbus Georgia.
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