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Day in the Life - Dr. Ali Khan

masking tape labeled with Day in the Life

Dr. Ali S. Khan
Date Featured: Friday, May 10, 2013

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Ali S. Khan was the Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until June 2014. Dr. Khan was responsible for all of CDC's public health preparedness and response activities. He shared a busy Friday with us.

U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, Ali S. Khan (RET), MD, MPH Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response

What time did you wake up? What woke you up?

I woke up a little before 5 to the sound of a very loud alarm clock. As a father of triplets, I was trained many years ago to get up early. Cherry Coke Zero helps get the day started.

How many times did you check Facebook or Twitter this morning?

I checked Twitter once. I was thrilled to see that one of our preparedness partners,, a non-profit that aids and enhances the New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina public evacuation plan, had an exciting week. After over two years of planning, public art sculptures arrived in New Orleans that will mark the neighborhood pick-up point meeting places in case of a city evacuation. The sculptures, which are amazing, were scheduled to be installed by the start of this Hurricane season, which is the first week of June. Can’t wait to see the sculptures up and on the streets.

Where did you spend your day?

I was on CDC’s campus for most of the day. My day began with CDC’s Polio Directors Update Briefing. As most people are aware, CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in late 2011 to support the global polio eradication effort – our Director Tom Frieden has declared polio eradication a CDC top priority. The EOC brings together scientists from across CDC, who provide scientific and management advice to country-level disease detection and vaccination efforts. Tremendous progress has been made by CDC and its partners. At this meeting, CDC leadership discusses next steps.

Who did you see or call?

After the Polio Directors Update, I had a number of other meetings. I sat down with Dr. Paula Walker, a mentee of mine, to talk about her MPH work. I also had a meeting with Dr. Robin Ikeda, who is the Deputy Director for the CDC, Director for the Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury and Environmental Health, and Acting Director for the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH). Later, I met with Todd Piester from the Strategic National Stockpile. My discussion with Todd was a “skip meeting,” where I meet with staff who are not my direct reports to get a better sense of what is going on around the office. All-in-all, we had some really good discussions.

What personality trait did you find most useful in your work today?

Curiosity. Whatever the issue or challenge that I face in my work, it’s essential. I am always trying to incorporate information from a variety of sources and map a path forward.

What did you snack on today?

I am a doctor, and it is a cliché, but I bring an apple to work almost everyday. I also have a weakness for dark chocolate with a hint of salt from Maison Robert- a great chocolatier here in Atlanta. It is usually in my office. Everything in moderation.

Where/what did you eat for lunch?

I dined with some of my MPH students at Taqueria del Sol, which is a few minutes from my office (I am an adjunct professor at Emory University, teaching about emerging infectious diseases). They are a constant source of fresh ideas. We had a few tacos, some shrimp corn chowder, and some guacamole. I am sure that I am biased, but Atlanta is one of the best towns for food in the country.

Any surprises today?

A cluster of pneumonia caused by a novel SARS-like virus appears to be heating up in the Middle East. This will require more attention from our programs.

How did you work exercise into your day today?

I take the stairs everyday. My office is on the 6th floor of a 12-story building, and I am up and down the stairs whenever I have a meeting. You need to work it in where you can.

On what device did you answer these questions?

My iPad.

How will you close out your day?

Today and most days end with a book. This week we had Rich Besser (the former Acting CDC Director who is now ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor) come to CDC to speak about public health and the media. He has a new book out and I’m looking forward to getting that started.