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TB Notes Newsletter

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No. 2, 2014

PERSONNEL NOTES

The Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report Team received a CDC honor award in the category Excellence in Communications. The team has also been nominated for an HHS award. They were recognized for their important work at the 62nd annual CDC Honor Awards ceremony on May 13. DTBE staff members who are part of this team include Peter Cegielski, Suzanne Marks, Roque Miramontes, Robert Pratt, Wanda Walton, and Michael Iademarco (formerly of DTBE).

Jose Becerra, MD, MPH, F.A.C.P.M., a retired captain of the USPHS Commissioned Corps, retires this summer from government service after 33 years of service with the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). He has served 29 years with CDC, of which 19 years were with DTBE in the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

In 1975, Dr. Becerra received a National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship to the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) School of Medicine. After graduating and completing 1 year of residency in Internal Medicine at the VA Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he completed his NHSC commitment by serving 4 years (1979–1983) in the USPHS. He served as an NHSC Medical Officer, a Medical Director, and a Clinical Preceptor in two primary care clinics in Maunabo, Puerto Rico (1979–1980), and in Cidra, Puerto Rico (1980–1983).

From 1983 to 1985, he earned an MPH in epidemiology and biostatistics at San Diego State University and completed his California preventive medicine residency. By then he had found his career path: The Cidra Migrant Health Project, affiliated with the UPR School of Public Health, had opened up for him the field of preventive medicine and public health.

In 1985, Dr. Becerra entered the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) class of 1985 and joined the Division of Reproductive Health (DRH). In 1987, he was awarded a Public Health Service Citation for analytic proficiency in the study of childbearing, pregnancy risks, and infant mortality patterns, focusing on minority populations. After serving 1 year in the Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Dr. Becerra returned to DRH in 1988.

In 1991, he was assigned by DRH to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDH) to direct the Puerto Rico Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Program (PR-MCHEP). In 1993, as part of this assignment, he was asked to direct the Division of Epidemiological Surveillance and Statistics (DESS). DESS had oversight responsibilities for three different disease registries (cancer, newborn screening, and premature thelarche) and for the PR-MCHEP. The new Division was created to apply the model successfully implemented by the PR-MCHEP to other areas within the PRDH. In 1993, Dr. Becerra received the PHS Surgeon General's Exemplary Service Medal for conducting studies related to the health status of mothers and children in Puerto Rico.

In 1994, his functions were expanded to include directing the PR-MCHEP. As Director of the PR-MCHEP, Dr. Becerra served as the Commonwealth Perinatal Epidemiologist. He also held an appointment as Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the UPR-GSPH. Dr. Becerra received the Public Health Service Achievement Medal for building the surveillance and research capacity of public health workers in Puerto Rico.

From 1985 to 1995, Dr. Becerra participated in and coordinated international courses in reproductive health epidemiology and research methods in Latin America and Spain. He also conducted workshops at the UPR-GSPH and taught epidemiology to medical students.

In 1995 Dr. Becerra returned to Atlanta, and since then has served as a senior advisor to DTBE on public health informatics and biostatistics. He was a founding member of the CDC Information Resources Governance Council, representing NCHHSTP through 2012.

Dr. Becerra currently serves as Chief of DTBE’s Data Management and Statistics Branch (originally the Computer and Statistical Services Activity). He provides leadership and oversight to mission-critical DTBE functions related to data, information management, and LAN support; statistical, methodological, and epidemiological analyses; and software development and maintenance of the Tuberculosis Information Management System and its transition to a standards-compliant electronic system supporting the National TB Surveillance System. 

Since 1995, Dr. Becerra has participated in and coordinated the Operational Research and Epidemiological Methods training course for TB Program Managers in Vietnam, India, and Latin America. Most recently, Dr. Becerra has provided technical assistance to the National TB Program in the Dominican Republic to design, develop, test, and deploy a web-based TB surveillance system using the CDC Enterprise Performance Life Cycle model.

Dr. Becerra’s undergraduate major in mathematics was put to the test as he led a team of statisticians to develop a mathematical model of TB transmission to guide policy decisions on TB elimination. The model was recently published and has been widely cited domestically and internationally.

During his retirement, José plans to be a frequent “snowbird” to his native Puerto Rico while keeping his main residence in Atlanta, where he and his wife Dr. Rosa B. Licha-de-Becerra home schooled and raised three wonderful children.

DTBE celebrated Jose’s career on May 29. We thanked him for his many contributions to public health and bid him a very fond farewell as he launches this new phase of life.

Emily Bloss, PhD, received the May 2014 NCHHSTP Director’s Recognition Award. Over the past 2.5 years, Emily has worked with the WHO’s Global Task Force on Impact Measurement, exemplifying outstanding international collaboration and leadership in strengthening national TB surveillance systems, leading and supporting the development of guidance documents and tools, and supporting prevalence surveys in multiple countries. She has demonstrated exceptional skill in gaining the confidence and cooperation of partners with the Global TB Program at the WHO and has exceeded expectations by successfully and efficiently responding to the needs of both DTBE and WHO and facilitated collaboration and communication between the two organizations. In her role with WHO, Emily has contributed to the development of international guidelines for national TB prevalence surveys and inventory studies for assessing under-reporting, in which she helped define methods used for conducting these large studies. She also helped lead the development of internationally applied standards and benchmarks for TB surveillance. For her outstanding work and ability to lead and work with other leaders in TB control from many different countries, WHO and other key technical partners, as well as other U.S. government agencies to continue to improve surveillance systems, she receives the NCHHSTP Director’s Recognition Award.

Kawi Mailutha has left IRPB to join the Center for Global Health. She will be working as a Public Health Analyst providing support and working with stakeholders to implement the Global Health Security agenda. Her last day in the office was May 16, 2014. 

Since joining IRPB in 2009 as a Public Health Analyst, Kawi has served in several key capacities. These included 1) serving as the project officer for cooperative agreements with the Civilian Research and Development Foundation, the Kenya Medical Research Institute for DTBE, and the World Health Organization (WHO), 2) serving as the country lead for Kenya and the administrative lead to IRPB’s Drug-Resistant TB (DR-TB) team, 3) leading and coordinating communication and education materials for the Branch for various publications and 4) serving as the DTBE liaison with the WHO TB Technical Assistance Mechanism (TBTEAM).

Bonnie B. Plikaytis is retiring after 36 years of service to CDC. After reading about the work of CDC in solving the mysterious illness that killed 29 individuals that attended the American Legion conference in Philadelphia in the summer of 1976, it became her dream to work at CDC. In April of 1978 the dream came true as she began work in the special immunology laboratory working on the diagnosis of Legionnaires' disease. It was a tremendous experience for a 23-year-old from Arkansas just out of her Medical Technology internship. The work was fascinating, working with the epidemiologists to solve the mystery of several additional outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease. On one such outbreak in 1983, the work brought her in contact with a talented young statistician. The story goes that she not only got great statistical analytic service but found her husband to be, Brian.

After the work with Legionnaires' disease, she spent many years studying Mycobacterium tuberculosis and in particular understanding the molecular mechanisms of drug resistance in M. tuberculosis and how to apply it to the diagnosis of drug-resistant TB. There were many publications and a few patents, but her greatest joy was in sharing the thrill of discovery with those working under her when they solved a difficult problem or found the answer to an elusive question. It did not matter if the issue or question was related to program, policy, or science, as she understood and appreciated the importance of all three and how they were intertwined in the complicated work of public health.

Her last 6 years were spent in management of the Laboratory Branch of the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination. Though it was hard for her to leave the research lab bench, she approached management with the same logic, dedication, and enthusiasm she applied to laboratory science. During her tenure as deputy and then acting branch chief, she provided the vision and laid the foundation for the current portfolio of branch activities, including the molecular detection of drug resistance service, applied research on mechanisms of drug resistance, and systems research to strengthen laboratory capacity. Importantly she also inspired hope and instilled confidence in the branch staff. After she left the lab bench, she lived vicariously through the staff entrusted to her and was always extremely proud of the groundbreaking work of the talented and dedicated individuals of the DTBE Laboratory Branch; work that continues to influence the field in a positive way.

As she completes her time at CDC and takes on a new life adventure in Big Canoe with her husband Brian and two dogs, Decker and Hailey, she will fill her time with activities including family, friends, dogs, woodland gardening, and the great outdoors. As a person who has spent her life recognizing opportunities and connecting dots to develop strategies and accomplish tasks, there will be no lack of things to keep her busy. A reception to celebrate Bonnie’s extraordinary career will be held on Thursday, June 26 at CDC’s Roybal Campus.

Chitvan Yadav, who is a front-end web designer and developer, has joined CEBSB and DTBE as a Web Master. Pursuing her lifelong interest in arts and creativity, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. She also earned an associate degree in web design and interactive media. During her studies, she completed numerous freelance projects, and after graduation, she was fortunate to work with AT&T and YP (The Yellow Pages). In her free time, she loves spending time with her family, and she enjoys painting and gardening whenever she has time. Chitvan is really pleased and excited about working at CDC and is looking forward to being part of the quality work carried out here.

Reported by Ann Lanner
Div of TB Elimination

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