From left to right is Amy Sullivan, Maayan Simkes, and Amy Zlot (Maayan’s other mentor).
It all started with an idea – the Portland Metro area needed a measles outbreak response plan. When Maayan Simkes approached her fellowship mentor with the idea, she was in her second year of a two year applied epidemiology fellowship funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development and run by Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE). She had matched with Multnomah County Health Department Communicable Disease Services, the front-line response agency for disease outbreaks in Oregon’s most populous county. Maayan had been analyzing the County’s vulnerability to a measles outbreak. She had also worked on our Ebola monitoring program, assembling information from state and local experts on monitoring needs and preparing workflows based on her experience providing monitoring. In looking at our measles outbreak vulnerability and thinking about the process put in place for Ebola monitoring, she struck on the need for a solid measles response plan.
Work on what is now the Quad-County Measles Protocol and Toolkit Development project was initiated by Maayan in October of 2014. Stakeholder input was of paramount importance. After consulting with her fellowship mentors and Health Department preparedness staff, Maayan used an emergency preparedness planning framework to get partners focused on the problem at hand, and identify gaps in our combined response capability. She added to the standard framework a set of working groups to tackle each of the gaps – distributing the workload in a way that allowed the project to move forward despite everyone’s very busy schedules.
While the project structure was a success, the timelines for it still meant that Maayan would be moving on to her doctoral studies before it was wrapped up. It was at this point that she reached out to another CDC-assignee working in the same unit. Kelly Howard was a CDC Public Health Associate. This program is run by the CDC’s Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support to support development of the frontline workforce in locations across the country. Maayan brought Kelly into the toolkit development process, and in turn, Kelly wrapped up the project, working closely with MCHD CDS staff. Maayan and Kelly worked together with their mutual advisor on a paper describing the project, and it’s submission to the National Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (NACCHO) Model Practice program. Quad-County Measles Protocol and Toolkit Development became a 2016 NACCHO Model Practice. As such, it will be available to all local health departments as an approach for communicable disease response planning.
Public Health organizations and agencies across the United States recognize the urgency of developing the next generation of public health workers in the United States. Professional in this field work at every level of government, local to federal, to meet the 10 Essential Public Health Services – covering everything from investigating communicable disease outbreaks to mobilizing communities for health. This project brought together many agencies, programs, and people. Without support of the various CDC workforce development initiatives, we would have been challenged to move forward on this important planning initiative. As one of the mentors for both Maayan and Kelly, it was great to see how each worked with their primary mentors, and to see how Maayan reached out to Kelly to bring her into the project. Many different Multnomah County staff and stakeholders had a chance to work with both of these new public health leaders: all provided much positive feedback. And now NACCHO has recognized their work too.
|Amy Sullivan, PhD, MPH is director of Communicable Diseases Services at Multnomah County Health Department in Portland, Oregon. Maayan Simkes is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in epidemiology at University of Washington. For more information on the Applied Epidemiology Fellowship program, visit http://www.cste.org/?page=Fellowship.