Past, Present, and Future Public Health Leaders at the CDC

Everyone is familiar with the CDC, a looming government institution even featured in pop culture shows such as The Walking Dead. But unless you work there very few people get to experience the magnificence first hand. It was very interesting to see all of the advancements in science throughout the iterations of the organization itself. From focusing on malaria and venereal diseases to now administering surveys and programs concerning exercise to name a few. After touring the CDC museum, which details not only public health advancements of the last 100 years or so and features recent extensive outbreak work battling Ebola, we met with UAB School of Public Health alumni. Meeting with Ivy Singletary, MPH , Margaret Paek, MPH, and Dr. Leigh Willis was an illuminating experience for many of us who wondered exactly how the CDC and all of its many interlocking pieces truly fit together. One of the things that really stuck out to us was the diversity in not only the work that they do but the sheer amount of opportunities awarded by the CDC. Just like any organization there is always some resistance when trying to get new projects up off the ground, but according to our alumni the best traits for public health students to cultivate are to be flexible and resilient.

Despite resistance, one alumnus, Leigh Willis, PhD, was able to create and enable a whole new method of outreach in order to share good health practices with the public. The method he pioneered at the CDC was Motion comics. Not only is the program available to the public, but discussion guides come with each video to allow for interactive learning between participants and facilitators. Perhaps one of the keys to success is doing your research and presenting your supervisors with a product, rather than just an idea. Both Ivy and Margaret suggested to us that this was a key to having projects and programs picked up and funded. If you put in the work, and show that you have the initiative, you are more likely to get suggestions on how to improve. The experiences of these alumni gave us a realistic view of working at the CDC and increased motivation to serve in the field of public health.

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