Hometown Heroes

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CDC’s Hometown Heroes initiative features employees who do extraordinary work for CDC through a collaboration with their hometown newspaper. Here you can learn about some of the Epidemic Intelligence Service officers—where they’re from, who/what inspired their interest in EIS, CDC and/or public health in general, and their EIS assignment for the duration of the 2-year fellowship.


  • Sydney Jones
    In Epidemic Intelligence Service, Alumna Tracks Down Clues About Outbreaks
    August 22, 2018
    Sydney Jones, PhD, 2010 graduate of University of Texas at Austin College of Natural Sciences, is one of CDC’s newest disease detectives in the Epidemic Intelligence Service. As an undergraduate at UT, Jones participated in a study-abroad program to Cordoba, Argentina that sparked her foundational interest in public health. She went on to complete two applied public health research experiences and graduate in the top 1 percent of her class. Jones is one of 66 officers selected for the EIS Class of 2018 and is assigned to the Connecticut Department of Health. Upon beginning her two-year fellowship, Jones said, “This is an opportunity to begin a career where hopefully I can make an impact by working on the front lines to improve public health.”
  • Sarah Labuda and Amy Lavery
    Aggies on the Forefront of Health Security
    February 19, 2018
    Texas A&M Health Sciences graduates Sarah Labuda, MD, ’03, College of Medicine ’07, and Amy Lavery, PhD, ’05, School of Public Health ’10, are now serving as CDC disease detectives. They are among the 71 officers selected for the EIS Class of 2017. Labuda is assigned to the Arkansas Department of Health, while Lavery is assigned to CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health in Atlanta. Both Labuda and Lavery attribute their interest in public health to their hands-on learning experiences at Texas A&M by bringing primary care services to rural Texas through the school of medicine’s Heath Circus society and by witnessing the university’s role in providing medical care to Hurricane Katrina victims.


  • Robin Cree
    Newark Grad Part of CDC’s ‘Disease Detectives’
    September 14, 2017
    Newark Native, Robyn Cree, begins her work as a CDC disease detective who analyzes children’s mental health issues and addresses the needs of children during public health emergencies. The inspiration for her career path and her love for science were spawned by a teacher who made science fun in her Newark High School chemistry class. Cree is grateful for a mentor who introduced her to CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service during her undergraduate internship. Cree earned her doctorate in chronic disease epidemiology.
  • Elisabeth Hesse
    Moses Lake Native Accepted to CDC Program
    September 12, 2017
    Elisabeth Hesse reaches a career milestone by joining CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, following eight years of service to the U.S. Army where she taught techniques to improve public health. Her work as a disease detective will involve analyzing data and investigating immunization safety issues. Hesse’s early interest in science and medicine prompted her participation in Frontier Middle School’s Science Olympiad team, where she placed in the national competition. She credits her biology and chemistry teachers at Moses Lake High School for nurturing her interest in science.
  • Audrey Pennington
    Santa Rosa native joins CDC’s prestigious ‘disease detectives’
    September 1, 2017
    Audrey Pennington attributes her career path to great teachers, who fostered her affinity for math and science through AP-level course work at Santa Rosa High in Santa Rosa, CA. Today and for the next two years, she gets to fulfill her dream of being a disease detective for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In her undergraduate studies, Pennington embraced public health as a way to improve health at a population level, which also inspired her MPH and Ph.D. in epidemiology from Emory University.
  • David Jackson
    Mountain Brook native enters elite CDC training program
    August 26, 2017
    During his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the West African nation of Ivory Coast, David Jackson witnessed pressing health needs, and lead him to pursue medical school in Alabama. A native of Mountain Brook, AL, Jackson had dreamed of being a doctor since his days at Mountain Brook High School. Today, he is one of the newest disease detectives at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) helping to improve safety in workplaces with a focus on chemical and biological exposures. Prior to his work at CDC, Jackson joined the U.S. Public Health Service and worked as a physician in Navajo Reservation in northeast Arizona.
  • Aimee Summers
    Portland grad playing a critical role in fighting Ebola in West Africa
    May 19, 2017
    From Ukraine to Kenya to Senegal, Aimee Summers, an EIS officer at CDC, has been deployed all over the world to respond to outbreaks and health threats. During the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, she led CDC’s on-site Dead Body Management in Liberia. Summers views these experiences as rewarding opportunities, stemming back to her studies and influencers at Portland High School (Class of 2000).
  • Jessica Healy
    How a Redlands native is helping Puerto Rico with Zika virus outbreak
    May 5, 2017
    The work of a Redlands native can now be used by health officials in Puerto Rico to help families impacted by the Zika virus. Jessica Healy, an Epidemic Intelligence Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presented her research last week to colleagues during the 66th annual EIS Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Healy spent a month in Puerto Rico investigating the number of people infected with the mosquito-borne virus that has spread across Caribbean countries as well as South and Central Americas.
  • Victoria Hall
    Newtown native discovers flaw in opioid-death count
    April 28, 2017
    New research suggests that some opioid deaths involving infectious disease may be missed by state surveillance, leading to an underestimate of the burden nationwide opioid epidemic that, according to the most recent statistics, already claims about 90 lives per day. Victoria Hall, a Newtown native and CDC epidemic intelligence service officer, discussed the findings at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 66th annual Epidemic Intelligence Service conference in Atlanta.


  • Emily Pieracci
    Former Richland woman makes difference through CDC
    October 2, 2016
    Emily Pieracci has turned her childhood love of animals and science and into an extraordinary career, one that’s sent her around the world and made an unquestionable difference. Building on her years of education and experience, Emily became a CDC disease detective in 2014, providing aid in CDC’s emergency response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Emily recently accepted a veterinary epidemiologist position at CDC. Her work includes training and education, from helping communities develop surveillance systems to recognize potential infection in people and animals, to teaching veterinarians to better identify and deal with rabid dogs.
  • Mary-Margaret Fill
    Alumni Spotlight – Disease Detective-School of Medicine Graduate Investigates, Addresses Outbreaks for CDC [PDF – 44 pages]
    REACH Mercer University Health Sciences Center, Volume 3
    Spring 2016
    In Mary-Margaret Fill’s role as a CDC disease detective, she works with the Tennessee Department of Health and local partners to identify and address communicable and environmental diseases threats within the community. Dr. Fill was drawn to the EIS program as a means to expand her sphere of influence beyond her clinical practice to make a greater impact. She realizes that working at the state level puts her in a position to impact a broader population through policy and programmatic interventions, work closely with local partners and stay abreast of what happens in the community.
  • Sara Oliver
    Disease Detective: Alumna Sara Oliver joins CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service
    June 17, 2016
    Sara E. Oliver, M.D., MSPH, has always had an interest in public health. After a medical mission trip to South America following her first year of medical school, Oliver realized she was more intrigued by the population-level health care challenges she encountered.
  • Lauri Hicks
    CDC’S Lauri Hicks ’95 Tackles the Dangers Imposed by the Misuse of Antibiotics
    January 21, 2016
    Seven decades ago, antibiotics arrived on the market as a life-saving remedy to common infectious diseases. Due to overuse or improper use, however, antibiotics are losing their effectiveness against new bacteria strains.
  • Matthew Ritchey
    The ABCS of heart health
    January 21, 2016
    Matthew Ritchey takes a big-picture view of our hearts. A senior epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ritchey conducts research related to national cardiovascular health projects such as the Million Hearts initiative.


  • Emily Ussery
    Beaumont native sees end of Ebola in Sierra Leone
    December 30, 2015
    Emily Ussery watched as weary faces broke into smiles for the first time in months when Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free the past November. The 34-year-old Beaumont native volunteered through a program with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to travel to the West African country in October to ensure the outbreak was coming to an end.
  • Dana Olzenak
    A Drexel Dragon Turned Disease Detective
    December 8, 2015
    How do you combine backgrounds in physical therapy and epidemiology to find a career that allows you to call upon both skill sets? Dana Olzenak ’06, an alumna of Drexel’s Post Professional DPT, carved a path that does just that – and on the front lines of public health, no less.
  • Katharine Benedict
    Kathy Benedict: Disease Detective
    December 1, 2015
    For many Americans, 2014’s Ebola epidemic in West Africa began and ended with the four imported cases reported in the United States. For the people of Sierra Leone and neighboring countries, it’s an ongoing health crisis—a crisis that Kathy Benedict (Ph.D. ’11, D.V.M. ’13) and her fellow Epidemic Intelligence Service officers were charged with combating for six weeks earlier this year.
  • Anita and Kanta Sircar
    Sisters fight diseases around the world
    Palos Verdes Peninsula News
    November 10, 2015
    Anita Sircar has looked up to her older sister, Kanta, her entire life. Whatever Kanta did, Anita wanted to do, such as volunteering at food banks and charity drives together during high school.
  • Julie Self – NCEZID/DFWED
    Macon native ready for focus as CDC ‘disease detective’
    Macon Telegraph
    Monday September 8, 2015
    A zest for childhood mystery novels and a penchant for problem solving has thrust Julie Castles Self to a global front. From pecking away at the keyboard well after midnight as a teen growing up in Macon, she is now focused on finding ways to fight back pandemics and pathogens that threaten us all.
  • Kate Russell – NCIRD
    Atlanta bound as a CDC detective
    Scarborough Leader
    Friday, August 21, 2015
    Kate Russell, a 2002 graduate of Scarborough High School, will always consider Scarborough home, but for the next two years she will be living in Atlanta working as a Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Mark Laughlin
    West Shore Sun
    August 20, 2015
    Westlake native is CDC disease detective: Westlake native Mark Laughlin is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 class of Epidemic Intelligence Service officers.
  • Lillianne Lewis – NCEH
    People in the news: Lillianne Lewis
    The True Citizen
    August 19, 2015
    Dr. Lillianne Lewis is now part of the Centers for Disease Control’s 2015 class of Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers.
  • Saleena Subaiya
    Subaiya Joins ‘Disease Detectives’ Force
    The Roslyn News
    August 19, 2015
    Roslyn resident Saleena Subaiya is not just another physician. Subaiya is on the front lines of public health, working across both the United States and at global destinations to keep the world’s peoples safe from a variety of health threats, including outbreak investigations for emerging disease threats, global health, chronic disease and injury prevention.
  • Lawrence Purpura
    The Almanac
    August 17,2015
    Also known as CDC’s “disease detectives,” only about 60 EIS officers are selected each year from a highly competitive national candidate pool of medical doctors, veterinarians and PhD recipients. EIS officers work across the United States and around the globe to keep Americans safe from a variety of health threats. All of the EIS officers in the 2014 class were involved in the Ebola response.
  • Alaine Knipes – DGHP
    Shutesbury native joins elite Centers for Disease Control team
    Amherst Bulletin
    Sunday, August 16, 2015
    During her education in Shutesbury and Amherst schools and eventually at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Alaine Knipes learned that she loved French and biology. Now, she uses her skills in both fields as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer — an elite group known as “disease detectives” — for the federal Centers for Disease Control.
  • Shannon Novosad – NCEZID/DHQP
    Opelika native begins fellowship as CDC officer
    Opelika-Auburn News
    Friday, August 15, 2015
    Serving others has long been a priority for Shannon Novosad. The Opelika native said she realized her passion for people and love for science at an early age, and by high school, the young scholar had developed an interest in studying medicine.  Little did the Opelika High marching band fanatic know she’d eventually obtain a biology degree from Tulane University and then graduate medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham before starting a fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Jason Lake – NCEZID / DHQP
    Gainesville man sleuths for sickness at CDC
    Gainesville Times
    Friday, August 14, 2015
    A Gainesville native has joined an elite fellowship program of “disease detectives” at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Selected each year from a highly competitive pool of hundreds of medical doctors, veterinarians and PhD recipients, Epidemic Intelligence Service officers work across the country and around the world to keep Americans safe from a variety of health threats.
  • Joel Massey – CSELS (State DOH)
    North Mesquite grad becomes CDC ‘detective’
    Mesquite Times
    Thursday, August 13, 2015
    When an epidemic strikes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is usually called into action to assess the situation, determine the best solution and how to prevent it from spreading or reoccurring. One of those on the front lines is 1997 North Mesquite High School grad Dr. Joel Massey.
  • Malini DeSilva
    Former Topekan working as ‘disease detective’
    The Topeka Capital-Journal
    May 16, 2015
    Topeka native Malini DeSilva has traveled around the United States — and the world — as a disease detective. DeSilva, 34, works as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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