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No. 4, 2012

PERSONNEL NOTES

Brian Baker, MD, has departed DTBE/SEOIB after completing his EIS training and is now serving as the new FSEB Field Medical Officer assigned to the Los Angeles Department of Health Services. In his new position in California, Brian will be the first Field Medical Officer (FMO) assigned to Los Angeles from DTBE/FSEB.  He’ll serve as the Medical Epidemiologist within LA County’s TB Control Program and provide leadership over the Research and Epidemiology Unit and will be a fully functioning member of the Medical Consultation Unit, consulting regularly with physicians from either the public or private sectors. Furthermore, Dr. Baker will provide direction and guidance to three epidemiologists.

While with SEOIB, Brian led multiple TB outbreak investigations and supported his colleagues as a team member on several others. As part of the Molecular Epidemiology Activity, Brian evaluated the TB Genotyping Information Management System (TB GIMS) after its successful launch and identified opportunities to improve the timely completion of records into the database. Brian, along with Dr. Lindsay Kim, co-authored the first published TB genotyping annual report, a comprehensive review of TB genotyping data reported to the CDC. In addition, in collaboration with IRPB, Brandy Peterson (FSEB), and Emma Johns (Medical Experience Fellow), Brian led an evaluation of the scale-up and provision of collaborative TB-HIV services in Guyana.

Brian is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. After extending medical school to work with the Institute for OneWorld Health on visceral leishmaniasis in India, and spend time in Tanzania working for the Axios Foundation on HIV prevention efforts, Brian completed an Emergency Medicine Residency at New York University.

Brian contributed greatly to DTBE’s and SEOIB’s mission, and though the Division is sad to see him leave Atlanta, we look forward to collaborating with him as a colleague in California. Please join SEOIB and FSEB in congratulating Brian on his new role!

Scott Cope, Julia Interrante, Ann Lockard, and Kristen Renneker arrived October 1 to serve as Emory Rollins School of Public Health Practical Experience Students in SEOIB for the 2012-2013 academic year. They will have opportunities to learn about TB surveillance, participate in outbreak investigations, and assist with TBESC research activities.  Welcome, Kristen, Scott, Ann, and Julia!

Chad Heilig, PhD, has transferred from his position in the Clinical Research Branch to a position as Team Lead for the Biostatistics Team in the Data Management and Statistics Branch. In late 1997, fresh from filing his dissertation, Chad began work with CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health (DRH). While in DRH, he joined a CDC institutional review board and became interested in research ethics, especially in clinical trials. In late 2004, he moved into CDC’s Office of the Chief Science Officer, where he reformed and oversaw CDC’s human research protection program. In 2007, he joined the TB Trials Consortium (TBTC) data center as the in-house methodologist. Since he started with TBTC, Chad has helped to bolster the integrity of TBTC study design, data management, and analysis. He has also developed collaborative and mentoring relationships with clinicians, epidemiologists, applied mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers, among others. In his new position, Chad anticipates spending 40% of his time on technical contributions, 50% on mentoring and teaching, and 10% on Division-level leadership activities related to his areas of expertise. He will continue to provide technical guidance and mentoring within TBTC as part of his new responsibilities, and will continue to provide consultative support to TBTC’s Core Science Group and to consortium-wide meetings. This new position aligns with Chad’s long-term goals, and we in DTBE are glad that he will be continuing to serve both TBTC and the Division as a whole.  While Chad continues to mentor analysts at the TBTC data center, Dr. Bill Mac Kenzie will temporarily assume some of Chad’s leadership and administrative responsibilities, including handling of data requests from collaborators outside CDC.

Jasmine Jacobs, MPH, has joined FSEB for a 6-month assignment as a Public Health Prevention Service (PHPS) Fellow. Jasmine is from Kansas City, Missouri, and received a B.A. from Stanford University, where she studied Human Biology. She received a Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University, where she specialized in Sociomedical Sciences. Jasmine’s public health experience includes working with women’s reproductive health issues, educating young people about health care reform, mobilizing communities in Queens for cancer prevention, and working to improve social media for health communications in Brazil. 

Carla Jeffries, SEOIB, was selected as the winner of the DTBE Director’s Recognition Award for the fourth quarter of 2012 for her exceptional work in responding to requests for TB data. During each year DTBE receives requests for data from numerous agencies and individuals throughout the United States and abroad. Examples of requestors include WHO, CDC leadership, Congress, and individual researchers. Carla Jeffries is the point person for these requests, and she responds to them accurately and often on the same day we receive those requests. If the request for data is not clearly stated, Carla makes contact with the individual making the request to ensure they 1) understand what information is available; and 2) are provided the most accurate and complete information we are able to provide. It is a rare occurrence that branch leadership does not receive an email from the requestor expressing their gratitude for the information Carla provides.

Especially noteworthy this past quarter, Carla’s work quality, productivity, and timeliness in responding to urgent data requests related to preparing for the budget briefing of the CDC Director was exceptional. Intense activity occurred to bring together an enormous amount of data to inform the NTCA-DTBE Formula Funding Work Group about the impact of numerous formula options. This work was intensified during that last month when the recommendation made by the Work Group was presented to Dr. Tom Frieden on February 27.

Carla was responsible for fulfilling requests for surveillance data by analyzing and abstracting data from the NTSS data set, often going back 19 years. These requests often came with a 24-hour deadline and always with the understanding that even the slightest error could risk embarrassing the Division Director in the very public forum of a briefing of the Agency Director.

With the cheerfulness of someone who has supreme confidence in her SAS programming skills, and with the skill of someone who knows the NTSS data set in great detail, she answered every request accurately and on time. This is all the more remarkable because an initial request for a data analysis would often be followed by a request for more details, or a request for the same data formatted in a different way. Congratulations to Carla for this well-deserved honor!

Lindsay Kim, MD, has departed DTBE/IRPB upon completion of the EIS program and is now serving as a Medical Epidemiologist in the Respiratory Diseases Branch, Division of Bacterial Diseases, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. In her new position, Lindsay will work on the Branch’s global pneumococcal and pneumonia prevention efforts, and serve as the CDC lead for domestic invasive pneumococcal disease surveillance activities.  Lindsay will oversee a portfolio of over 50 projects that are part of the Active Bacterial Core surveillance conducted in 10 US states.  The projects will focus on monitoring pneumococcal disease trends, evaluating the impact of pneumococcal vaccine, and informing vaccination policy. She will also be providing technical consultation to resource-poor countries on the impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the quality of invasive bacterial disease surveillance, and pneumonia etiology and burden assessment activities.

While with IRPB she was very productive. She published a first-author manuscript about screening for highly infectious TB in people living with HIV/AIDS in the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes (JAIDS) with DTBE co-authors Chad Heilig and Kevin Cain, a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report presenting the first TB genotyping annual report (with DTBE co-author Brian Baker), and two additional papers accepted for publication: “Adherence to Concurrent Tuberculosis Treatment and HIV Antiretroviral Treatment Regimens in South Africa” (with DTBE co-author Laura Podewils), and “Epidemiology of Recurrent Tuberculosis in the United States, 1993–2010” with DTBE co-authors Patrick Moonan, Rachel Yelk-Woodruff, Steve Kammerer and Maryam Haddad. In addition, she provided technical assistance to the South Africa National Department of Health to assess the yield of intensified TB case finding, and led an investigation of an increase in the number of TB cases among residents of the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico.

Lindsay is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  After receiving her MD from Emory University and her MPH in epidemiology and biostatistics from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, she completed her internal medicine/primary care residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Lindsay’s enthusiasm, hard work, positive energy and dedication will be greatly missed by all of us in DTBE, but we are delighted to see that she is able to continue her interest in global health. She will no doubt contribute to the strengthening of NCIRD activities. Please join us in wishing Lindsay the very best in her new role!

Heather Menzies, MD, is leaving DTBE in early December 2012 for a TB/HIV Advisor position in the Division of Global HIV/AIDS with CDC-Namibia, based in Windhoek.  In this position, Heather will serve as a Technical Advisor to the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) to assist in the improvement and expansion of effective diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and monitoring of TB, with particular emphasis on HIV-related TB. She will help further guide the development of the CDC-Namibia TB and TB/HIV program implementation strategy, focusing on technical support to the Namibian National TB and HIV/AIDS Programs.  She will also help to address TB/HIV program priorities, support program evaluation and operational research, and continue to work closely with the Division of TB Elimination.

As many of you know, Heather has been the focal point for childhood TB and has done an outstanding job within and outside CDC, collaborating with others to strengthen the evidence base for determining the global burden and improving the diagnosis and management of TB in children. Although we are sad about Heather leaving the Division, she will be in a key position to facilitate IRPB/DTBE's collaborative work in Namibia and southern Africa. 

Please join us in thanking Heather for the important work she has done to advance the mission of the Branch/Division and CDC in combating global TB. Congratulations to Heather on this exciting new position! 

Joe Scavotto, Deputy Director of the Field Services and Evaluation Branch, Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, will retire on January 4, 2013, after 38½ years of service to public health, its programs, goals, and employees, and most of all, the people who are in need of its services.

Raised in Broad Brook, Connecticut, home of Christmas tree and cigar wrapper farms, Joe had intended to follow his father into dentistry. But the lure of venereal disease control in New York City in September of 1974 was too tempting for this country lad, so off he went as a new CDC “Co-op” to Jamaica Queens, NY, where he was promptly mugged on his first day on the job.

Undaunted in his quest to control syphilis and gonorrhea, his 2 years of hard work were rewarded with a promotion and conversion to a full-time Federal position as the lead Venereal Disease Investigator (VDI) in the Corona, Queens, clinic. While there he supervised a stunningly beautiful, brilliant, and talented New Yorker named Shelley who was a Title X Family Planning Program VDI. Joe would later marry Shelley after she chased and proposed to him.

Though Shelley’s funding was cut, along with her position, Joe was again promoted and served on the mean streets of the Bronx where he was known to co-workers as the “Bronx Beacon,” owing to his vibrant red hair and ghostly white skin.

In November 1977, just 6 hours after Joe and Shelley returned from their honeymoon, he was notified that he was being transferred to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  So in January 1978, they braved three incoming snowstorms to get there. This proved to be a premonition to Joe; his projected tenure was shortened to only 1 year when the state ejected all their federal assignees.

Transferred to Oakland County, Michigan, in January 1979, Joe was able to once again demonstrate his superior skills, resulting in another promotion in February 1980 and a then rare in-state transfer to the Detroit VD program at Herman Kiefer Hospital as a first-line supervisor.

In September 1983, Joe was transferred to CDC headquarters in Atlanta to work as the Public Health Advisor (PHA) Recruiting Coordinator in the Field Services office of the then Center for Prevention Services (CPS).  It was a position he especially relished, being able to hire the next generation of dedicated and talented PHAs. It also reunited him with Jerry Naehr, who had served as the “Fearless Leader” of the NYC VD program.  The fact that Jerry had a vacancy on his CDC bowling team, and that Joe was a great bowler, had no bearing whatsoever on his getting this job.

To this very day, Joe will deny a “Scavotto curse,” but after 4 idyllic years, the recruiting program was severely curtailed.  However, Joe accepted an offer from John Seggerson (he with the keen eye for talent) to join the TB program.  So in November 1987, he became an outreach PHA in the Fulton County, GA, TB program.

In November 1989, Joe moved to Baltimore, Maryland, as the TB program manager. There he developed two programs: one, in conjunction with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, was to train preventive medicine residents in TB clinical medicine; the other was to institute a city jail TB program. One day the legendary Dr. David Glasser, under whom Joe worked, decided to tag along for a visit to the jail.  The subsequent death of this innovative physician, 2 days after Joe insisted they walk to their destination, was a huge loss to the Baltimore City Health Department and TB prevention and control in general, and of course, in no way an indication of any “curse.”

Nevertheless, in November 1991, Joe was assigned to the Montgomery, Alabama, TB program and promoted to senior PHA for the state TB program. It was not the happiest of assignments for a variety of reasons, so he was glad in August 1993 that he was transferred back to CDC Atlanta, this time to the Division of Tuberculosis Control headquarters, to be a program consultant.

Upon arrival in Atlanta, Joe was immediately detailed to work on the task force assembled to coordinate an emergency response in support of the Midwest states that were coping with devastating floods. Upon completion of this assignment, he reported to his new post and served the state and local programs and the TB field staff in his region. Joe’s dedication was rewarded in January 1997 when he was promoted to serve as one of two Field Operations section chiefs.

In June 2001, Joe achieved his next career goal when he was chosen to be Deputy Chief of the Field Services (and later Evaluation) Branch. His work as a section chief/team lead, and later as Deputy Branch Chief in FSEB, has been most highly regarded at all levels of DBTE owing to his responsiveness to TB controllers, managers, and field staff, and his assistance at many levels in improving program performance.

It is from this latter position that he retires, eager to begin the next stage of his life.  Echoing the words of his recently retired great friend and cohort, Greg Andrews, Joe will miss most of all the public health friends and colleagues with whom he has worked over the years.

Joe has always been a great hobbyist, and now plans to dive headfirst into some of his favorites: 

  • He has been a nationally licensed race official for the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for over 30 years.  In addition to the SCCA, Joe has worked as a corner marshal at tracks all over North America for professional series such as IndyCar and the American LeMans Series.
  • Joe still bowls in a weekly league, this one for high rollers, and at the ripe old age of 63, carries a 210 average. He is in pursuit of his third 300 game.
  • Throughout his life, Joe has been a model builder, mostly cars.  During the last 20 years, he has become an accomplished scratch builder of large-scale car models of all eras and categories. In the last 5 years, he has garnered a number of awards and had his cars photographed for major hobbyist magazines.  He recently began a model of a 1933 Cadillac V-16 Town Car, having just completed a 1967 Lola T70 Mk III race car.

Most of all, Joe looks forward to having more time to spend with his best friend and companion, his biggest fan, and the “mama” to his two furry boys: the still stunningly beautiful, brilliant, and talented Shelley.

DTBE is planning a celebration of Joe’s career. The event will be held on December 14, 2012, at CDC’s Corporate Square campus, Bldg. 8, from 2 pm to 4 pm. Vivian Siler is the DTBE point of contact for this celebration and will be collecting all contributions and special notes for Joe. Please send your RSVP, as well as your notes and personal mementos, to Vivian at vas6@cdc.gov. If you wish to contribute to a gift for Joe, contact Vivian at 404-639-5319. Mark your calendars and plan to be there!

Margarita Elsa Villarino, MD, MPH, epidemiologist in DTBE’s Clinical Research Branch and Team Lead for the TB Trials Consortium, will be leaving DTBE in mid-December.  She has accepted an assignment as a senior member of the U.S.-Mexico Unit in CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ), with an official duty location of Mexico City, Mexico. In so doing she returns to her home country as a CDC assignee, where she will advance CDC’s infectious disease activities in Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border region, with particular emphasis on the activities of the Division of Influenza and DGMQ.  She will interact closely with the Secretaria de Salud’s General Directorate of Epidemiology (DGE), the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (InDRE), the National Center for Epidemiologic Surveillance and Disease Control (CENAVECE), the National Tuberculosis Program, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Cure TB and TB Net, and other border health entities and organizations.  Priority projects will include mutually agreed upon binational infectious disease epidemiology projects, with emphasis on influenza and binational surveillance, enhancement of binational TB case tracking, and integration of panel physician TB diagnosis and treatment with the Mexican national TB control system. In addition, she will contribute to the training of epidemiologists in the Mexico Preventive Medicine Residency (PMR) program and binational exchanges of personnel with CDC.  She will move to this new post in early 2013.

In communicating earlier with the colleagues with whom she had been working in the TB Trials Consortium, Elsa wrote: "I will soon leave behind the best job a person could possibly have at CDC and anywhere [working as Team Lead with the TBTC in the Clinical Research Branch].  Pablo Neruda said: ‘To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life,’ and all of you have been part of the fire that has fed my life for the last 20 years.  I will take your fire with me wherever I go and forever.  But I believe the other fires that sustain our lives are the fires of change and new challenges, as well as the fire that comes from serving and giving back to the people and the regions we come from.  I am grateful to you at the TBTC study sites, to the wonderful institution of CDC, and to DTBE, for making my career what it has been and thus preparing me for this exciting new opportunity. I will work very hard to accomplish it with success."

Elsa earned her MD at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California (UABC).  She interned at the Hospital General in Tijuana, and later earned an MPH degree at San Diego State University.  She came to CDC in 1988 as an EIS officer in the Hospital Infections Program, where she worked with Bill Jarvis.  She often spoke of the good fortune she felt in gaining that initial position with a superb CDC supervisor.  She completed a PMR year with the Division of STD Prevention, and in 1991 joined Dr. Larry Geiter in the Clinical Research Branch in the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination.  She has served in that branch for 21 years, building a distinguished career as an expert in all aspects of TB research and control. She has authored original research, and drafted guidelines and recommendations, in virtually all areas of TB control, including epidemiology, therapeutics, prevention, diagnostics, and vaccines.  For the past 10 years she has served in key leadership positions for CDC's TB Trials Consortium.  This year, the publication of results from TBTC's Study 26, for which she was project officer and co-investigator, earned CDC's highest scientific prize, the Charles C. Shepard Science award.  That study publication reported on a much-shortened regimen for treatment of latent TB infection.  She has built highly successful public-private partnerships with industry; has been a popular lecturer for a decade in the CDC-Emory Rollins course on Epidemiology of TB Control; and has built a national and international reputation, with invitations to speak on tuberculosis in locations as diverse as Argentina, Barcelona, Brazil, Hong Kong, London, Mexico, and Paris.  

Elsa's impact in the Branch and the Division has been significant, and her departure will leave a considerable gap.  We wish her every success in meeting the new challenges she has chosen.  She invites friends and colleagues to join her in Mexico City for the world's best tamales, tortas, and tacos.

In Memoriam

Pat Griffin Davis, age 77, passed away September 20, 2012, at Gwinnett Medical Center from a heart attack. She had worked for CDC for 35 years and had retired on December 31, 1999. She worked as a statistical assistant in DTBE’s Field Services Branch from 1993 to the time of her retirement. Prior to that, she worked in the Surveillance and Epidemiology Branch. Pat’s attention to detail and cheerful, gracious personality made her an indispensable member of any office she worked in.

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