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Day in the Life

masking tape labeled with Day in the Life

Dr. Stephen Redd
Friday, April 24, 2015

Rear Admiral Stephen Redd, a Georgia native from Augusta, is the Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Redd began his CDC career 30 years ago as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, and has worked on major responses, including the New Jersey anthrax attack, Hurricane Katrina, and the H1N1 flu outbreak. He has been instrumental in the fight against Ebola, CDC’s largest response to date — and he does it all after his morning run. Here’s a day in his life.

Stephen Redd

What time did you wake up? What woke you up?

This morning I woke up a little after 3am. I’ve been waking up early because my wife and I have a dog with diabetes and the dog has been waking me up very early in the middle of the night because she needs to go out and she’s thirsty. Obviously, she’s trained me more than I have trained her—although, today I woke up before her.

Where did you spend your day?

After I walked the dog, I read the New York Times and the Washington Post on my iPad. Since it was a Tuesday, I ran with my running group; there’s a standard 8 mile route for Tuesdays. While running, I started chatting with a running colleague. And what do we talk about while running? Well, running, of course. Turns out she ran the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon is such an iconic American event, and it made me think about the amazing work responders did after the bombing in 2013. Unexpected events like what happened in Boston remind us that preparedness will always be critical for our country.

After my run, I showered here at the CDC gym and began my day. Every morning I start the day with a call that involves several of CDC’s employees involved in the Ebola response, and we discuss domestic healthcare preparedness. Afterwards, I met with my leadership team, and then had an Ebola briefing by the incident management staff. Later in the day, I met with members of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) leadership as well as federal and state public health leaders to discuss work being done on the Ebola response at the state level. This meeting was especially valuable because it was an opportunity to meet with key leaders and strengthen working relationships that may be called on in the future. It was also an opportunity to share programmatic priorities of the state health departments as well as our CDC priorities, the end result of which is a better understanding of what we each value and what we need to do to work more effectively together.

What did you snack on today?

I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and some leftover tomatoes and rice. I’ve also had roughly five cups of coffee.

What personality trait did you find most useful in your work today?

I think there are a couple of things that are helpful, although they may seem contradictory! One trait is that I’m impatient, so that is an attribute that helps to get to the main point quickly. However, I do make a concerted effort to listen and allow people to tell their story and understand them. In public health, it is vital for us to understand the people we are working with or supporting, whether that’s a CDC staff person, a preparedness partner, or a someone from a local community who needs our help. Both of these traits are a constant in my daily work.

What do you listen to during the day?

Since I’m waking up so early, I’ve been listening to these great podcasts; one is on cathedrals — I’m about 1/3 done with it and it’s fascinating!

Where/what did you eat for lunch?

Although it’s almost the end of the day, I haven’t had a chance to eat lunch yet. However, I brought white bean and ham soup that I made. I will get to it eventually.

What was the best part of the day?

The run was pretty good — it was a great day for it. It was about 50 degrees outside, which was a little cool for April but it was great. Running, any type of exercise, really clears the mind and brings energy to the entire day.

What most captured your attention today?

We had a meeting to review indicators for the domestic Ebola funding, and one of the things that just struck me is that we are exactly in the place we want to be with the global health security agenda. We have a mandate and funding to implement at a pretty significant scale. We are positioned to make real impact in global health security.

How many times did you check Facebook or Twitter?

I have a Twitter account which I’ve checked once today. I’m new to the Twitterverse, so I spend a lot of time scrolling through my feed. Dr. Frieden had some interesting tweets about the Global Philanthropy Forum Conference. He spoke on a panel that explored which methods of capacity building in West Africa during the Ebola response could be transferred to other settings or responses. He noted in his tweets that innovative philanthropic efforts that build health systems play a huge role in advancing our global health security.

What are you reading?

That was what my tweet was about today— I’m reading Farewell to Arms again and a book on Lean Development — a book about software development and rapid cycle improvement.

How will you close out your day today?

I have a high school reunion tonight, so hopefully I will be seeing some friends I haven’t seen in a while. It is has been a great week and I am looking forward to the weekend.

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