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finally, an update

It’s been a busy few weeks. I started my new job as a program associate in public health preparedness at NACCHO, returned to Boulder to place Dan in a burlap sack and drag him across the country, and we found a new apartment in DC for us to move into around labor day weekend.

I am really enjoying my new job. On my second day of work, I was shipped off to Orlando, Florida to attend our national conference, and I loved it. I enjoyed just about every session I attended and learned a lot about the concerns of local health departments this fall as the H1N1 epidemic reemerges. One of the highlights of the conference was hearing Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, discuss preparations for the H1N1 outbreak. I learned that while a vaccine is expected to be available, two doses are likely to be required, especially in children, which means that immunity may not be established until a full five weeks after the first shot. It will be the responsibility of local health departments to organize the immunization of all individuals who are recommended to and chose to receive vaccination in their communities. I was reminded that while the H1N1 strain has thus far caused a “mild” flu, a “mild” flu impacting 15-45% of individuals will still have tremendous effects on our economy, as workers become ill, our education system, as students and teachers become ill, and our health care infrastructure. Local health departments are concerned about having sufficient staff and staff exhaustion on the front lines. However, Frieden reminded the audience that a brain surgeon is not required to give a vaccination and the most difficult part of mass vaccination may be crowd organization, rather than vaccine delivery. Finally, while Dr. Frieden recognized the difficulties of staff lay-offs at the state and local level due to budget constraints, public health activities remain a state power and responsibility. However, the vaccines themselves will be provided free from the federal government. Money for planning has already been provided to states, and through them, to local health departments, and money for vaccine delivery will likely follow.

Another highlight was listening to Dr. John Agwunobi, president of health and wellness for Wal-Mart U.S. He emphasized the role of Wal-Mart and other corporations in public health, because public health happens wherever the public is at 3pm on a Tuesday. 140 million people shop at Wal-Mart stores each week. He encouraged local health departments to reach out to corporations in their communities to form partnerships. He also commented on the role that Wal-Mart hopes to play in the upcoming H1N1 vaccination effort.

It’s going to be hard to beat this introduction to a job. I was sipping wine and petting sting-rays at Sea World at the NACCHO Annual social event on my fourth day of work. I can wear jeans to work. There is free coffee and tea, and my co-workers at NACCHO are “NACCHO nice.” Some say that people at NACCHO are so nice as to border on impeding progress. However, when I discussed this trade-off with someone who has been working in DC for a number of years, she said,”There are lots of smart people in this world and there is no reason to hire any of them if they aren’t nice.”

Since returning from the annual conference, I have been working on a few of the projects that are required as part of our program grant from the CDC as well as working on preparing some resources for local health departments regarding mass vaccination and prophylaxis for the fall. My primary assignment will be helping local public health departments, though their state health department, become more prepared for all types of public health emergencies. I will likely be working with Colorado and Connecticut initially. While some people think I am crazy, I think that joining a preparedness team during the year in our history that we have most strongly predicted a coming epidemic is very exciting and will give me some great exposure to a new area of public health.

After my first week and a half of work, I returned to Boulder to help Dan pack up the rest of our apartment into a pair of relo-cubes and drive the 1,723 miles across the country in his newly-repaired Subaru. We got to spend our last night in Colorado at my parents’ house. Then we drove to Springfield, IL to spend the night at Dan’s dad’s place. We visited Dan’s mom in the morning before completing our second consecutive 13 hour day of driving. If you’re wondering, it costs $249.93 to drive from Boulder to DC. It was great to get to spend some time visiting our families and we remain grateful for the moral support, the delicious food, and the snacks and baked goods for the car trip.

our new apartment

our new apartment

Dan and I have been staying at my great-aunt’s (first cousin-twice removed’s, or something like that) gorgeous home in Georgetown while working on the emotionally and physically exhausting task of looking for an apartment. But we found something. It’s located in capitol hill between union station and eastern market, with access to the blue, orange, and red lines. Not big, but a large enough one-bedroom apartment with great views of tree-lined blocks in a pretty neighborhood with some interesting coffee shops, bars, and restaurants.

And now, it is time to go shop for a bed.

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