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No. 4, 2013

HIGHLIGHTS FROM STATE AND LOCAL PROGRAMS

The Retirement of Charles E. Wallace, PhD, MPH

Charles E. Wallace

Never having met a stranger, this man fills a room with his smile, infectious laugh, and loud, but reverent, “Can I hear an Amen?” when he, or someone else, provides an insight or statement about TB control activities and those whom we seek to serve in our TB public health positions. Even as his imposing physical presence draws your attention to him, it is his personal magnetism, his unparalleled ability to listen and really hear, that captivates and charms you.

Dr. Charles E. Wallace recently retired from his position as Manager of the Tuberculosis Services Branch within the Texas Department of State Health Services, a position he held since 2007. His departure is a huge loss to the TB Branch, as his understanding of TB control has been learned over years of experience in the Department — first as a Public Health Technician in the City of Houston’s Health Department, and since 1985, in increasingly important and responsible positions in the Tuberculosis Control Division and the Infectious Disease Intervention and Control Branch within the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Charles earned his master’s degree in public health in Maternal and Child Health, with a concentration in public administration, from the University of Pittsburgh, and his Doctorate of Philosophy in Education, with a specialty in human resource development and organizational behavior. Despite his impressive educational credentials, it was Charles’ real understanding of those within our communities who are minorities, impoverished, and suffering from disease, that contributed to his success. His knowledge of individuals, and the organizations designed to serve these individuals, facilitated his effectiveness and his ability to “be real” to those he served.

We all know of his work in TB control in the state of Texas and at the national level, but few of us know of his early interest in, and contributions to, maternal and child health, sickle cell anemia, and minority health programs. Dr. Wallace’s commitment to those in our society who have fewer resources and who suffer from huge health disparities has been a pattern since the early 1970s when he was the Executive Director of the Bexar County Anemia Association. There, he took special pride in the work he accomplished in directing the Southwest Sickle Cell Disease Education and Screening Clinic.

Following these early experiences, Dr. Wallace served as the Community Health Director for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti, where he organized, developed, and directed preventive health care services for 120,000 residents. Here is where he was first introduced to communicable disease control and surveillance, and where he developed an appreciation of the interconnectedness of global and domestic diseases, which ignited a spark and passion that would continue to motivate him throughout his long career.

Charles’ departure from his position not only is a loss for the State of Texas: it also leaves a huge void at the national and international levels of TB control. Never one to shy away from additional responsibilities, he is the quintessential public health servant leader. Dr. Wallace served as the National TB Controllers Association (NTCA) Board President in 2001 and 2011. In 2007 and 2008, he served as the Vice-President/ Program Chair for the North America Region of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD). During 2005 and 2006, he served as the Secretary Treasurer and Chair of the Abstract Committee.

It is hard to find a man who is so passionate and committed to his work.

Menn Biagtan, MD, MPH, Program Manager, British Columbia Lung Association, shared the following thoughts about Dr. Wallace: “It is hard to find a man who is so passionate and committed to his work. He takes every task seriously, and yet he’s got a good sense of humour. He is well loved and respected by his colleagues at the NAR Region. I was just so fortunate to have worked with him.”

In addition, Dr. Wallace was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Tuberculosis (ACET) from July 2000 to June 2002, and he was the ACET Liaison Representative, representing NTCA from June 2011 to June 2012.

Many of us remember the National TB Conference in Atlanta immediately following Hurricane Katrina, when Charles Wallace and Charles DeGraw (director of the Louisiana TB Control Program) were overwhelmed with emotion describing the efforts and successes of their respective TB control programs in locating and resuming critical TB treatment to those who had fled the state in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. It is with that same emotion and personal commitment that Charles did his job, day in and day out, in the aftermath of an unprecedented crisis or in the routine work and the daily responsibilities of a public servant protecting others from tuberculosis.

My friend Charles has been a constant inspiration to me ever since I became involved in TB control and prevention at the state level many years ago.

Jon Warkentin, Immediate Past-President of the NTCA, has this tribute to Dr. Wallace’s legacy in TB control: “My friend Charles has been a constant inspiration to me ever since I became involved in TB control and prevention at the state level many years ago. Through his involvement in NTCA and in the TBESC, the self-effacing yet powerful words of Charles Wallace have challenged the status quo, whether that be public health practices or research priorities, always pointing to those we serve and to the ethical challenge of eliminating health disparities across all boundaries.”

Charles is someone I admire and respect. He is a true public health hero in my eyes.

Sue Etkind, long-time NTCA member, former Massachusetts TB controller, and now Executive Director of Stop TB USA, says of Dr. Wallace, “Charles is someone I admire and respect. He is a true public health hero in my eyes. Charles has loved his ’TB journey’ in spite of the many obstacles that he has faced along the way, obstacles that others may have found difficult to overcome. He embodies the sentiment that you do not give up when you still have something to give. His leadership and untiring advocacy for public health and the disenfranchised persons of the world are remarkable. Even more importantly, his gentle manner, enthusiasm, warmth, and humor are truly inspirational to all who have been fortunate enough to be his friend and colleague.”

TB control and prevention, for Dr. Charles Wallace, is not an occupation but a passion, a mission, and a commitment to others and their health — this has been evident in everything he undertakes. We hope that, in his retirement, Charles will return in some capacity to rejoin the fight against TB. In the meantime, as friends and colleagues, we celebrate the many accomplishments of Dr. Wallace, and will carry on his legacy of inspiration, compassion, and justice.

 

Reported by Donna Wegener
Executive Director
National TB Controllers Association

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Snohomish Health District TB Team Honored

The following is reprinted with permission from The Snohomish Times.

The Snohomish Health District Tuberculosis (TB) Program was presented with the “2013 Outstanding TB Team” award from the Washington State Department of Health TB Program on October 23, 2013, at the annual conference of state and local public health TB specialists in Tacoma.

State officials said the Snohomish Health District TB Program received the honor because of the staff’s dedication to and leadership in TB control in Washington. The Health District’s TB team handles some of the highest rates and most complicated cases of TB in the state.

“Tuberculosis is a serious disease that can be fatal, yet it is curable and preventable, so the community work of local health staff like those in Snohomish County is vital to prevention,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “The knowledge and expertise of the Snohomish Health District TB Program staff, along with their outstanding performance and dedication to TB control, is clearly helping make the community they serve safer and healthier there and throughout the state.”

Snohomish Health District TB Team Honored

The TB program recently completed the treatment and management of four connected cases of active TB begun in 2012 among mental health patients in Everett. In addition to finding the active cases, the TB team looked for people who had been exposed over time to the lung disease. This led to screening and testing 107 more people for TB. Of those, 11 were treated for latent TB infection, which means they have breathed in TB bacteria but are not actively sick.

The local TB program in Snohomish County handles 20 to 26 active cases of TB annually. In prior years, staff worked on a complex medical investigation in the drug-using community, in a local high school, and in multicultural communities. An additional challenge is the rising incidence of TB that is resistant to many antibiotics used for treatment.

“All of us at the Snohomish Health District are very proud of our TB program staff for their devotion to helping people who have TB or who could get sick from it,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Health Officer and Director of the county’s public health agency. “They do excellent, difficult work every day to keep county residents healthy. The ‘Outstanding TB Team’ award from the State Department of Health is an exciting and valued recognition of their effort.”

The program team members were Dr. Chris Spitters, physician consultant; Dr. Joseph Aharchi, program manager; nurses Naomi Kern, Karen Winchell, Anna Hippchen, and Christina Griffiths; Alicia McQuen, disease investigation specialist; outreach workers and linguists Vanny Khy-Preston and Kon Setiaev; and support staff Lisa Pederson, Sally Anderson, and Linda Douglas.

 

Reported by The Snohomish Times
Snohomish, WA

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