Knox Changes Lives: We’re on our way there – final challenge day! Judd '69 & Charlene Jessup and Merry ’80 ...
Major in History
How did your Knox experience impact your current work?
My Knox education encouraged me to be curious and ask a lot of questions, which I think has helped me find interesting work in public health, both domestically and globally. The ability to think critically and be flexible to changing circumstances are certainly two great assets to have when working in global health, especially in a pandemic or in any dynamic environment.
Describe your experience working at the CDC during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, much of my time is focused on helping the China office support Mission China in the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC team works with the embassy and our four consulates to ensure that Mission China employees and American citizens stay safe and healthy, and we work closely with the CDC headquarters in Atlanta and the Department of State and other agencies in Washington, D.C., to communicate public health information that might affect other sectors and U.S. interests. The China office also participates in a regularly scheduled technical exchange with China CDC related to COVID-19 topics.
It’s been challenging, exhilarating, exhausting, and fulfilling all at once. Each day, we juggle COVID-19 response needs and China-specific public health priorities. Fortunately, the CDC China office has a fantastic and high-performing team of locally employed staff, and we have strong support from the Embassy Front Office.
Tell us about your usual work at the CDC.
As the country office deputy, I am the lead for management, human resources, operations, and financial management for the China office. Because I also have a scientific background, I provide and coordinate technical assistance and feedback on global health security like public health preparedness and workforce development, non-communicable diseases like hypertension and heart disease, and program evaluation and applied research.
How did you get into this field?
I was a history major participating in the summer program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong when I first learned about public health. I was working on a transcript for a talk that Dr. Harvey Fineberg (Professor Emeritus at Harvard University) did at the Asia Society in Hong Kong at the time. I was fascinated by the idea of global health and how my background in history and Asian Studies might be useful in this field, so I decided to apply to public health schools. I started my international health degree at the Yale Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (now School of Public Health) in 1997 and graduated two years later with a master’s in public health (MPH). After a summer job at the Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco (LCAT) in Washington, D.C., I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to start my first job at the CDC in the Office on Smoking and Health in September 1999 and have worked as a public health advisor, policy lead, evaluation scientist, applied researcher, and epidemiologist in chronic diseases, public health preparedness, injury prevention, and global health for the last 21 years.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think fondly of my years at Knox and still keep in touch with Knox friends. I love that Knox set me up to be a lifetime learner. I’d be happy to connect with students and alums interested in public health.