Former Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response Division
Southwest Utah Public Health Department
Where were you on 9/11? Were you part of the emergency response?
I was teaching high school that day. I started in public health in 2004 and retired 25 years later in 2020.
What was your introduction to public health preparedness? How did you get involved with PHEP?
I became the emergency response coordinator and emergency preparedness director at Southwest Utah Public Health Department in 2004. This public health department covers a very large geographical area, including five different counties. This was my first experience with the PHEP program. Working with other first responders to prepare for all emergencies, including public health emergencies, was a great benefit to our region. I am so grateful for the PHEP funds to assist public health in emergency preparedness planning and response
What did you do on a day-to-day basis related to PHEP activities?
I developed plans and prepared for large mass vaccination events, including drive-through and other models. I shared these plans with many other local public health partners throughout the state of Utah and in other states at the national Preparedness Summit.
Over your career, what changes did you see in PHEP? How has public health preparedness evolved?
I had more than 100 employees at the first exercise I oversaw for the local public health department. After a few years, staffing was reduced to just over 40. Because of this reduction in staff, we used other local first responders and Medical Reserve Corps volunteers to help us fill the gap.
Another big change was using Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) funds to collaborate with medical facilities included in our planning, exercises, and responses. These facilities included hospitals, long-term care, assisted living, hospice agencies, and others. What a great opportunity to plan and prepare together for the COVID-19 pandemic.
How has PHEP supported preparedness in your jurisdiction? What’s the most significant impact PHEP has made in terms of your jurisdiction’s ability to respond to a public health threat?
PHEP funds paid for an emergency coordinator to write plans and coordinate exercises. They also provided the supplies needed for an effective and efficient response.
PHEP funds made it possible to collaborate with other first responders in our large region by facilitating local emergency planning and coordination meetings. Without these funds, the community would not have been as open as they were to the drive-through and other mass vaccination models that we used during the COVID-19 pandemic response.
Reflecting on your career in public health emergency preparedness, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am proud of our drive-through and other mass vaccination plans and response preparedness. I am also proud of sharing many aspects of these plans with other local public health departments throughout the state and the nation.
I am proud of our coordination with other local emergency preparedness committees and first responders throughout the region and the other great partnerships we developed. We worked together to accomplish amazing response efforts and exercises.
Other than COVID-19, what public health emergency response experience stands out in your memory and why?
Every year after completing the mass vaccination plans for our larger communities, we conducted mass vaccination clinics using either drive-through or walk-in methods. In some areas, we vaccinated as much as 30% to 35% of the community on this one day.
How did you maintain momentum and prevent personal burnout in the preparedness field? How did you do the same for your team?
I retired about a month before the public health emergency declaration for COVID-19. I hope the planning and preparation I did for all the previous years contributed to the COVID-19 response of many local public health departments.
We tried to avoid burnout by having connections daily with each other. Our team participated in things outside of work together. We focused on the positive difference we were making in the community. We also tried to keep staff as healthy as possible.