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No. 3, 2009


Shanica Alexander, MPH, has been selected by the Field Services and Evaluation Branch for the CDC Public Health Advisor position in the Indiana State Department of Health in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shanica began her career in public health at the City of St. Louis Department of Health, Missouri, as a Bioterrorism Epidemiologist in June 2006. In that role, she coordinated emergency preparedness trainings, conducted communicable disease outbreak investigations, and oversaw disease and syndromic surveillance.  In December 2007, she was promoted to Program Manager for Tuberculosis Control Services and Communicable Disease Prevention.  As Program Manager, Shanica was responsible for the overall fiscal and programmatic management of communicable disease investigations and outbreaks; TB case management; the TB control clinic; and the refugee health program.  Shanica received her MPH degree from Saint Louis University School of Public Health in May 2006. She began her new assignment in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 6, 2009.

Sandy Althomsons, a contractor with Northrop Grumman, has returned to DTBE after an assignment with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) - France. Starting in February 2008, Sandy served for 1 year as an epidemiologist / data manager for the MSF HIV treatment program in Chiradzulu, Malawi. Prior to that, Sandy had served for 2 years as the Data Manager for the DTBE/SEOIB Surveillance team. During those 2 years, Sandy oversaw the creation of two annual surveillance reports, worked with the World Health Organization to create a surveillance workshop at the IUATLD conference in Paris, collaborated with state TB controllers to ensure data quality for the National TB Surveillance System (NTSS), and worked closely with the TIMS team to produce a new reporting platform. She presented data at international conferences in South Africa and was the principal investigator on several DTBE Analytic Steering Committee studies. In her current position in SEOIB, Sandy is working on the Genotyping Aberration Detection system.

Sapna Bamrah, MD, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Public Health Service, will join the TB/HIV team in the International Research and Programs Branch/DTBE for a 180-day detail starting in mid-November. Sapna has been with DTBE on the SEOIB Outbreak Investigations Team since July 1, 2008.  She joined CDC in 2006 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer with the International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch in the National Center for Environmental Health, an assignment which led to her working with displaced populations in Kenya, Nepal, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, and Swaziland, and to a partnership with DTBE during a 2007 TB Epi-Aid in Michigan. Dual board-certified, Sapna completed her residency in internal medicine at Case Western and her fellowship in infectious disease at the Cleveland Clinic. With a background in social work before attending medical school, Sapna has also volunteered extensively with homeless service providers. Her longstanding passion, however, is TB, which, combined with her previous experiences, will be a great asset during her time with IRPB. 

Nakia Burgess has joined the Communications, Education, and Behavioral Studies Branch (CEBSB) as an administrative assistant. Nakia grew up in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and studied business administration and psychology at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey. She held a number of positions with the State of New Jersey; including a position as an administrative assistant with the NJ Department of Transportation. She was there for a little over 2 years before relocating to Georgia. Since relocating here, she has held positions as a claims specialist, a data entry operator, and a medical assistant. In October 2008 she joined CDC as a program operations assistant in CDC’s Human Research Protection Office. In that job, she processed the protocol submissions to be reviewed by institutional review board (IRB) staff. She also processed Scientific Ethics Verifications requests and performed records management and various administrative and clerical functions as needed to help the IRB administrators manage their boards. In addition, Nakia has plans to enroll in Georgia State University, where she will be pursuing a degree in public health.

Chris Hayden, who served from 1996 to 1999 as chief of DTBE’s Communications and Education Branch (CEB), retired from TB for good at the end of August, following a 41-year career in TB control. Please see the article in the CEBSB Update section.

Andy Heetderks of DTBE’s Field Services and Evaluation Branch was awarded the September NCHHSTP Director’s Recognition Award for his contributions to addressing TB in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. In May 2008, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) requested assistance from DTBE in addressing an outbreak of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB in Chuuk State. At that time, the first four cases of MDR TB had been diagnosed in Chuuk, one in a 2-year-old child. Numerous challenges existed, the most significant being the lack of strict DOTS standards and the absence of second-line medications to treat the MDR TB cases. Andy spent a tremendous amount of time and energy going above and beyond his normal duties to establish relationships and reach agreements between numerous agencies to address this critical problem. Andy spearheaded a working group representing HHS, FSM, the Department of Interior, the World Health Organization, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to not only secure medications for all infected patients, but to ensure ongoing support of the program. In large part due to his efforts, 17 patients have received life-saving MDR TB treatment. In addition, many programs throughout the region benefited from the ongoing capacity building that he initiated. Andy has been working in this culturally unique and geographically challenging region for over a decade and is extremely well respected within the region. His ability to navigate challenges and remain effective has been exemplified in his tremendous contributions during the MDR TB outbreak in Chuuk.

Kawi Mailutha has joined DTBE's International Research and Programs Branch (IRPB) as a Public Health Analyst.  Since 2007, Kawi has served as an HHS Emerging Leader Fellow. During her fellowship, she worked in several centers and offices at CDC, including DTBE.  Her projects stemmed from web development, project officer duties, operational research, country support, and infection control and policy.  Prior to coming to CDC, Kawi worked in a multi-service health care clinic in Kenya, where she worked with a team to promote and deliver preventative health programs in the areas of maternal-child health; safe water; and the prevention of HIV, TB, and malaria. In 2005, Kawi served as a Special Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer at Harlem Hospital in New York City. There she spearheaded the creation of a multi-disciplinary Geriatric Center, while working with the Geriatric Committee of clinicians, administrators, architects, and community representatives to analyze data to compile a suite of services, a strategic plan, and an operating budget.  She also worked in various nonprofit organizations in New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco, New Mexico, and London providing budget and program development. She has also supported public health programs and initiatives in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  While in IRPB, Kawi will provide administrative support and work with the TB Infection Control Team.

Blen Mekuria has left the division. She worked for a little over a year in the Communications, Education, and Behavioral Studies Branch (CEBSB) as an administrative support contractor. Blen, who has a degree in sociology from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, provided outstanding administrative assistance to the branch and was a tremendous asset.  She will be greatly missed! Her last day with DTBE was August 24.

Heather Menzies, MD, MPH, of DTBE’s International Research and Programs Branch (IRPB), and Alyssa Finlay, MD, formerly with IRPB, are members of the Global Perinatal Integration Working Group (GPIWG), which was awarded the NCHHSTP Director’s Recognition Award for August. Dr. Fenton cited the group’s leadership in promoting integrated global maternal, newborn, and early child health (MNCH) services. The group members establish best practices in integrating interventions during the MNCH period, conduct operational research, serve as an information clearinghouse, engage global stakeholders, and provide technical assistance in global MNCH integration.  GPIWG has worked collaboratively to develop a compendium of interventions and “best practices” for MNCH integration as well as a series of operational research proposals.

Brittany Moore has joined DTBE’s International Research and Programs Branch (IRPB) as a 2009 ASPH/CDC Rosenfield Global Health Fellow.  Brittany is a graduate of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.  Before joining DTBE, she served as the Knowledge Management Assistant with CARE USA’s avian and pandemic influenza team, where she was responsible for managing communications with CARE field offices, developing informational and advocacy materials, facilitating trainings and workshops for CARE partners, and conducting operations research.  Brittany most recently spent 3 months as a consultant with CARE Lao PDR and CARE Cambodia.  In Laos, Brittany led a team of University of Health Sciences (UHS) researchers in analyzing the UHS’ first health-seeking behavior assessment.  In Cambodia, she assisted CARE Cambodia with the design, conduct, and analysis of an avian influenza program evaluation.  In 2008, she led a research team in conducting an evaluation of CARE’s community-based microfinance program for caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children in rural South Africa. Prior to her work with CARE, Brittany was the public health policy analyst with the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  Her primary domains were emergency preparedness and response, pandemic influenza, and HIV/AIDS programming.  In this capacity, she supported development of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, and preparation for PEPFAR reauthorization.

Trang Nguyen, MPH, CHES, has left the division after serving in a 1-year fellowship through the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) in the Communications, Education, and Behavioral Studies Branch (CEBSB). Trang earned an MPH degree in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences from San Diego State University (SDSU). While here in CEBSB, Trang worked cheerfully and productively on a number of projects. Some of these included developing a slide set relating to the Tuberculosis Self-Study Modules; developing e-cards to promote TB-related events such as World TB Day; updating the division’s Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis Education and Training; developing a variety of fact sheets; and assisting with the planning, organizing, and presentation of the 2008 and 2009 TB ETN conferences. Trang has recently rejoined CDC as a contractor in the Office of Workforce and Career Development, where she is working as a continuing education (CE) consultant.  Her primary duties entail consulting with course developers on their CE applications. She will certainly be missed by her colleagues in CEBSB!

Taraz Samandari, MD, PhD,a medical officer in the International Reserach and Programs Branch (IRPB) returned to Atlanta in late July 2009 after a 6-year tour in Botswana, where he directed BOTUSA, CDC’s TB-HIV Research Division. He spearheaded a 40-person team in the conduct of a rigorous clinical trial to determine whether continuous isoniazid prophylaxis would reduce the burden of TB in HIV-infected persons. Additionally, he participated in a variety of operational research activities and provided advice to Botswana’s Ministry of Health. Prior to joining DTBE's IRPB in 2003, he served as an EIS Officer with CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis. Before coming to CDC, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine.

Robin Shrestha-Kuwahara, MPH, has left DTBE’s Clinical and Health Systems Research Branch (CHSRB) and is now serving as a Health Scientist on the Evaluation and Community Interventions Team, a group led by Maureen Wilce (also formerly with CHSRB) in the Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, National Center for Environmental Health. Her new responsibilities include, in part, developing policy and objectives, appraising programs, and initiating guidance for evaluation studies related to building capacity in state respiratory health programs; leading the design and implementation of evaluation activities that reduce health disparities regarding respiratory diseases; and designing, overseeing, and conducting scientific evaluation surveys and projects to identify and solve health system-related problems. In CHSRB, where Robin served for over a decade, she was involved with the hospitalization and contact investigation studies led by Zach Taylor; served as PI on Phase 3 of TBESC Task Order 13 (adherence to TLTBI); and directed the development and production of a remarkable series of five ethnographic guides for TB programs caring for foreign-born populations.  Most recently she served as the lead behavioral scientist in a TB Leads-funded project whose goal is the development of an improved consent process for human subjects research in the TB Trials Consortium.  Robin was highly regarded by her colleagues in DTBE, and she will be greatly missed!

Ralph Anthony Stidham, DHSc, MPH, who goes by “Tony,” has been selected for a Public Health Advisor (PHA) position in DTBE’s Field Services and Evaluation Branch in Boston, MA. He began his new position on September 14. From 2006, Tony worked as an epidemiologist for the State of Florida in Palm Beach County, Florida, with responsibility for following up with 93 reportable diseases and/or conditions. Prior to that, Tony served as an epidemiologist for the Nevada State Health Division in Carson City, Nevada.  Tony started his public health career with CDC in July 1993 as a Public Health Associate assigned to the Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) program in Miami, Florida, followed by STD assignments in Detroit, Michigan, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and back to Miami. He has an undergraduate degree in sociology from San Diego State University; a graduate certificate in public health from the University of Washington in Seattle, with a concentration in policy development, program planning, and evaluation; and an MPH degree from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in 2002. He completed his Doctor of Health Sciences program at Nova Southeastern University in August 2009.

Jessie Wing, MD, MPH, a medical officer in the Field Services and Evaluation Branch (FSEB), has returned to FSEB headquarters in Atlanta after 10 years as Hawaii's TB Control Officer. Jessie trained at the University of Arizona, Emory University, and Brown University, where she completed her medical training before coming to CDC as an EIS Officer.  While at CDC, she contributed to asthma epidemiology (she authored the first chapter on asthma epidemiology for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s first National Asthma Education Guidelines) and domestic and international immunization programs.  She worked extensively in Asia and was assigned to Beijing, People's Republic of China, to work on polio eradication with the World Health Organization through the National Immunization Program. In 1999, she was assigned as chief of the TB Program in Hawaii, where she supervised nearly 50 staff in 4 counties and managed a busy program that provided comprehensive clinic services, as well as surveillance, programmatic, and education services. During her 10-year tenure, she oversaw a major renovation of the TB clinic into a state-of-the-art clinic, with new digital radiographic equipment that provided service in over 65,000 annual patient visits.  She also introduced research to the TB Program as the Principal Investigator of Hawaii’s TBESC site, and updated policies and procedures in targeted testing and contact investigation. As TB Controller and chief, she handled several new legal challenges and many administrative and personnel details.  She has returned to FSEB, where she is working on TBESC Task Order 21 (acquired rifamycin-resistant TB), among other projects.


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