As a public health agency, we work to promote and protect the health of our community where people live, learn, work and play. From education to regulation and from emergency preparedness to clinical care, our broad scope of work mirrors the World Health Organization’s comprehensive definition of health: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being – not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
We’ve created this new section to help our community better understand who we are, what we do and why. We also want to recognize the efforts of our outstanding employees. We hope you’ll enjoy reading about some of our co-workers and the excellent work they do to improve health and quality of life. Please check back as we’ll feature a new co-worker each month.
Darlene is married to a captain in the Knoxville City Fire Department and mother of two amazingly talented kids.
Clean and safe drinking water is an important part of a healthy environment and it needs to be protected to preserve public health. Many in Knox County depend on groundwater as a primary source of drinking water – a well, public water supply, or another groundwater source. The KCHD Groundwater Protection Division of Environmental Health does an incredible job helping our citizens protect their water. For this month’s staff feature we are proud to highlight the work of Darlene Gwaltney, KCHD soil scientist and groundwater supervisor, who works hard to make this effort successful. Meet Darlene!
Darlene has been working at KCHD for 23 years. She has been our soil scientist for 22 of those years. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to help our citizens. Darlene works directly with people in the community to help them with subsurface sewage disposal systems (SSDS), otherwise known as drain fields. She and her team assist property owners in evaluating, designing and inspecting all SSDS in Knox County. She helps people make sure their SSDS are compliant with regulations and statutes from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, thereby ensuring they are safe. We have confidence in the quality and cleanliness of our water sources because Darlene and her team work hard to protect our public health. Her work makes a big difference for us every day! We are so proud to have Darlene and all our team members with the Groundwater Protection Division working at KCHD.
If you utilize well water on your property, please register your well with KCHD. Identifying wells can help us safeguard the water supply in our county. To register your drinking well or obtain more information on wells, please click here.
If you’re interested in learning more about Groundwater Protection, please click here.
Chelsea has been happily married to her husband Duncan for one year. They are parents to Scout, a rescued pit-mix. She is a dedicated Dollywood season pass holder, enjoys being involved in her church and loves visiting new restaurants and coffee shops to try new things and leave reviews.
The average employee spends more time at work than they do at home. Because of this, it is vital for employers to encourage and promote wellness in their place of business. Employee health affects more than just medical costs. Unhealthy lifestyle choices often lead to chronic diseases, costing businesses more than one trillion dollars in lost productivity alone. We understand that complete wellness entails physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual,
occupational and social aspects. Facilitated by the
Knox County Health Department, East Tennessee Wellness Roundtable is proud to provide educational materials, support and guidance to assist employers in making “well” choices for and with their employees. Integral to this effort and to our success is Chelsea Johnson, a nutritionist with Community Health. Meet Chelsea!
The East Tennessee Wellness Roundtable (ETWR) is chaired by Chelsea. ETWR is a resource for area professionals who want to create cultures of wellness at their worksites. As chair, Chelsea plans educational meetings focused on current wellness trends. She also facilitates the ETWR Gold program to recognize businesses and facilities that raise the bar in worksite wellness. ETWR can help provide needed tools to partners, provide employee gardens, kitchen tools, fitness equipment, sample policies and lactation rooms. These tools help our community partners reach their worksite wellness goals.
According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services:
- 59% of employees do not get adequate exercise
- 50% or more may have high cholesterol
- 27% have cardiovascular disease
- 26% are overweight by 20% or more
- 24% have high blood pressure
Chelsea is also very involved with breastfeeding promotion. She partners with local hospitals to support them as they improve their breastfeeding practices and staff education. She also works with Catholic Charities of East TN Inc.’s pregnancy Help center to develop quality breastfeeding education that is culturally appropriate for the population, addressing breastfeeding equity in our community. Chelsea says, “I am passionate about women being given exceptional breastfeeding education and support!”
Chelsea works with the Healthy Weight team in Community Health. The team’s projects are funded through the Project Diabetes grant. This is a competitive state-wide initiative focused on innovative primary prevention strategies to prevent and/or improve diabetes and obesity. Per the 2014-2015 KCHD Community Health Assessment, diabetes and obesity were both identified as health priorities for our county.
Chelsea enjoys working in community health because the team is promoting health across all ages and with a diverse group of local partners. She is also thankful to work with pregnant women and children. Consistently spreading the message of wellness and health to our community is a job she finds extremely rewarding.
Thank you, Chelsea, we are glad to have you!
For more info about ETWR click here
For more info about breastfeeding support click here
Tooth decay (or cavities) is the most common chronic disease of childhood, yet it is largely a preventable disease. Tooth decay is more common than asthma and hay fever, and if left untreated, can cause abscesses, tooth loss, low self-esteem, weight issues and other issues for children. Dental pain is the number one reason why children miss school. The Knox County School-based Dental Preventive Program and our talented employees who work on this program are helping to address this. Meet one of our exceptional dental hygienists: Megan Jacks.
Megan is a registered dental hygienist in our School-based Dental Preventive Program. She goes into the field to offer needed dental treatments in our community. She visits children in grades kindergarten through eighth, to help them with oral health care. Schools are selected for this program based on the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunches. During the summer we bring the program to other groups such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Helen Ross McNabb, Interfaith Clinic, and other programs. Megan was recently involved in a very successful three-day project where we were able to provide over 292 protective treatments and help 45 children. When school is out of session, Megan also works in the KCHD dental clinic where she provides dental cleanings, x-rays, fluoride treatments, sealants and oral hygiene education.
A big part of oral health is prevention and education. When we place sealants and fluoride treatments we are helping prevent dental cavities in children. We also provide dental education to parents and guardians. We help people learn good habits for oral health and this has direct outcomes on their overall health and well-being.
“I feel like I go home every day knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life,” she said. “Some of these children have never owned or used a toothbrush, let alone gone to an actual dental check-up. Knowing that I have in some way helped ease the fear and bring a more positive light to their oral and overall health is very rewarding.”
We are grateful to work with Megan, and our community benefits from her efforts.
To learn more about our dental clinic, click here.
To learn more about our School-based Dental Preventive Program Click here
Data is a tool that we use every day in public health. We use it to treat patients and evaluate the success of our programs, but we also use it to make community emergency response plans, monitor infectious disease and identify the health-related needs of our community. Our epidemiology department is invaluable in this regard. We are able to do so much as a public health organization in large part because of their expertise, and this co-worker is no exception. Meet Alicia Verlinde, epidemiologist in our Communicable and Environmental Disease/Epidemiology division.
Epidemiology is the study of patterns in health-related events in society. Alicia has worked with us for 12 years as an epidemiologist. She and her colleagues help our departments and programs better understand their data to plan for the future and assess the past. As an evidence-based public health organization and because we want to make the most of our time and resources, data drives much of the work we do. Alicia works directly with our clinics and departments on specific data needs like grant reporting, patient/testing numbers, program evaluation, quality improvement projects and much more. She also assists with outbreak investigations as needed.
One of Alicia’s professional passions is maternal and child health. She previously coordinated our Child Fatality and Fetal Infant Mortality Review teams and led early efforts in fetal loss prevention. These teams have the heavy task of reviewing deaths involving anyone under the age of 17 for the purposes of developing or improving prevention and education measures if possible. Alicia is also involved with the State of Tennessee Maternal and Child Health epidemiology team, helping review needs for local epidemiologists working to advance maternal and child health. As Alicia says, “I am really proud of the work I did with Child Fatality Review in helping the team’s process and our prevention activities. I am particularly proud of leading the charge to obtain funding for our Cribs for Kids program. I feel like that had a direct impact on families in need and it makes my public health heart happy.”
Outside of her work here, Alicia is a board member of Girls, Inc., a local nonprofit aimed at supporting and inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold. Alicia is also the proud mom of an amazing five-year-old daughter, Chloe. They have an eight-year-old mutt, Sebastian, who they adopted from Young-Williams Animal Center. Alicia says, “I am blessed with my Knoxville friends who have become my family away from my Michigan home. I am very grateful for my work family!”
For more information on our Epidemiology division, click here.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 970,000 people living with HIV infections in the United States, and nearly 40,000 new infections are identified every year. This is just one reason why our efforts toward HIV/AIDS prevention and education are so important. It takes great leadership to support those efforts, and this co-worker does just that. Meet Dr. John Narro, medical director and infectious disease physician in our Centers of Excellence (COE) clinic.
COE’s overarching goal is to ensure that people with HIV/AIDS in the Knox County and East Tennessee region who are uninsured or under-insured have access to care. Dr. Narro and his team work to reduce the stigma of disease, provide education on prevention and disease management, and ultimately decrease new HIV infections. COE provides nutritional and pharmaceutical counseling if needed. They also have medical care managers available to assist with linking patients to other services in the community or breaking down barriers to care.
Dr. Narro has been working with us for more than 20 years. With the support of our leadership and the Tennessee Department of Health, Dr. Narro helped plan and open our COE in 2000. He worked with us initially part-time until July 2017, when he came on board full time after retiring from the University of Tennessee Medical Center. With this change and a few others, COE’s clinical services have expanded to now include Hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment of co-infected HIV patients, in addition to further prevention and treatment counseling. Emphasizing the importance of his team in these efforts, Dr. Narro says, “I am supported by two wonderful HIV certified nurses, Rebecca Jackson, RN and Rebecca Malone, RN and a nurse practitioner, Christine Bloom.” Dr. Narro and his team have gone above and beyond to identify needs within the clinic and make improvements. These efforts have resulted in decreased wait times for patients to receive services and increased services available.
Dr. Narro also acts as the East Region Tuberculosis Program (ERTBP) medical director. Together with Margaret Whipple, our lead TB nurse manager, and the clinical staff, they provide TB screening, LTBI (Latent Tuberculosis Infection) counseling, preventive therapy and active therapy to patients in the Knox County and East Tennessee region. Because their work centers around improving lives, reducing secondary cases/transmissions and the overall burden of these diseases, Dr. Narro and his team play an important part in the overall health of our community. No population is immune from disease, and services like those provided by our COE are essential pieces of the puzzle to creating a community where all residents have the opportunity to be healthy.
When he’s not busy at work, Dr. Narro enjoys time with family. He has been happily married to his wife Doris for 34 years. Together, they have three grown children, Greg, Melinda and Kimberly. They also have a one-year-old Walker Coonhound named ToteZ. We are grateful for Dr. Narro’s many years of service and continued efforts at disease prevention and management.
For more information on our Centers of Excellence clinic, click here.
It is important for women to feel supported, educated and informed regarding every aspect of their reproductive health. Our Women’s Health clinic is dedicated to doing just that in a confidential and safe environment. With caring and competent providers, Women’s Health provides services to women in our community regardless of age, income, race, disability or marital status. They even go a step further to provide social counseling to all patients in need, which is where this co-worker makes a real difference. Meet Kenny King, social counselor in our Women’s Health (WH) clinic.
As part of his daily responsibilities, Kenny spends time with patients and provides a supportive atmosphere to discuss their needs and connect them with community resources when necessary. One of his major roles in WH is to inform patients of positive pregnancy results and provide assistance in applying for insurance. Kenny is a trained Marketplace Certified Applications Counselor (CAC) and uses his knowledge and expertise to complete the online application process for TennCare. He also works with patients to identify and discuss other potential barriers to care such as housing, transportation, food access, substance abuse (focusing heavily on identifying patients with this problem due to the current opioid epidemic), tobacco use and mental health concerns. Kenny then makes referrals to help address those issues on a case-by-case basis. He even takes the time to inform patients of local OB/GYN providers and which insurance plans they accept. Kenny says, “Much of my job is to identify the specific needs of each client and tailor my interaction with them in a manner that best serves their particular circumstances.”
Kenny has been with us for an impressive 25 years. During that time, he has worked in HIV/AIDS education and medical case management with our Centers of Excellence (COE) clinic, the TennCare reverification program, our Social Services Indigent Care program and now Women’s Health. Kenny served as co-chair of the HIV/AIDS Regional Advisory Committee (includes members from a 16-county area) and helped implement an off-site community HIV/AIDS testing program. Kenny was at one point the primary trainer in the East Tennessee region for the TN HIV Counseling and Testing Program, through which he helped train numerous employees both in our organization and health departments in the surrounding counties. He also served on the community Faith Coalition board, our internal Wellness Committee and our Workforce Development Committee.
Kenny is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a degree in psychology. Before joining our organization, Kenny worked at Peninsula Village Outdoor Program counseling high-risk youth in long-term treatment. He is particularly proud of his work in our community focused on homelessness, youth outreach and addiction recovery communities, making such an impact that his patients still contact him for services and support.
Kenny is a joy to work with and we are grateful for his service in public health.
Physical activity and good nutrition play a major role in the development of children. Establishing healthy habits at an early age can have a lifelong impact, and schools are a great place to start. Creating environments that make it easier for children to build these healthy habits early in life gives us the potential to ensure healthier and happier generations for years to come. There’s one KCHD co-worker in particular who is especially passionate about building these habits early. Meet Amber Ford, a public health educator in our Community Health division.
Amber works with Knox County Community Schools to help improve the health of students and their families. Most of her work is aimed at creating and enhancing access to places for physical activity, promoting increased physical activity and physical education, creating supportive nutrition environments in schools and increasing access to healthy foods. Her work involves helping to provide more places at and around schools to be physically active like outdoor classrooms, trails and updated playgrounds. She has also helped improve school environments through projects like water bottle refill stations and cafeteria updates.
Amber says, “In working with community schools, I’m able to hear from the schools what they need to be healthier places and then help to find resources and partners to make that happen.” Some of those partnerships even extend to other educators within our Community Health division. One of the things Amber enjoys the most about her job is the collaboration that occurs both inside and outside of our organization. Beyond her daily responsibilities, Amber also serves on the board for Keep Knoxville Beautiful, which has an important mission of creating a cleaner, greener and more beautiful Knoxville.
Amber has been an integral part of projects like The Walking School Bus program and the Knox Rocks Community Schools Soccer program. She is especially proud of her work with Nourish Knoxville in operating the Power of Produce (PoP) club. This program gives kids a chance to sample different fruits and vegetables at the Farmers Market. They each get $5 in PoP bucks to select and buy their own healthy foods, empowering kids to make good choices and explore fresh foods. Amber has also helped increase access to the Farmers Market by coordinating field trips and distributing materials on programs like PoP and Fre$h Savings (a program that doubles SNAP dollars for fruits and vegetables).
Amber’s educational background is impressive and helps her daily in her role as a public health educator. She is a registered dietician with a master’s degree in public health, a master’s degree in public health nutrition and is a graduate of the University of Tennessee’s Culinary Institute. Amber is grateful for the opportunities she has had to use her nutrition background and training for the benefit of our community, and her efforts have not gone unnoticed. In spring 2018, Amber received the Tennessee Health Educator of the Year award from the Tennessee Department of Health. We are fortunate to have educators like Amber on our team.
For more information on our Community Health division, click here.
In an effort to improve quality of care, KCHD became thefirst health department in the state to adopt Electronic Health Records (EHR). That change was not easy, however, and it took a team of dedicated individuals to make it happen. This co-worker supports the software needed for EHR and ensures that our staff can successfully utilize the program in their everyday work. Meet Caley Webster, clinical informatics specialist in our Computer Operations division.
There are several benefits to using EHR versus paper records, but some of the most important reasons continue to be accuracy, efficiency, and productivity. Health records are a crucial part of our work. We use them to access important health information about patients such as past conditions, allergies, medical tests, immunizations and current medications. As Caley notes, accurate records also give us data to support decision making and allocate limited resources in an “educated and data-driven fashion.”
Caley’s primary project involved working with staff to get EHR configured based on their needs, and now her work continues to involve staff support. On any given day, you can find Caley helping co-workers prepare for documenting new programs or processes, writing reports for internal use and state/federal reporting requirements, as well as educating staff on things like basic use and updated versions of our EHR software. Caley’s work with EHR and reporting helps ensure that we are able to provide accurate documentation in order to receive funding and continue offering services.
Caley’s background is as impressive as her work ethic. She is a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Nursing Administration. She has also achieved American Nurses Credentialing Center certification in Informatics Nursing. Having been with us for five years now, Caley’s knowledge is invaluable and her contribution to daily clinical operations is significant.
For more information on our available clinical services, click here.
Did you know that August is National Immunization Awareness Month? Just like good nutrition, exercise and regular check-ups, vaccines play a vital role in keeping you healthy throughout your life – from childhood through your senior years. In fact, vaccines are considered one of the most important public health achievements of the last century, protecting millions from illness, hospitalization and even death. This co-worker is an expert at vaccines and one of the best in the field of public health. Meet Denise Morris, a registered nurse in our Travel and Immunization Clinic (TIC).
Denise and our other nurses in TIC provide routine vaccines for infants, children, teens and adults. They also provide vaccines for international travelers and give guidance on what vaccines are required for travel to various parts of the world. One of Denise’s roles in TIC has been to speak with potential Stamaril (yellow fever vaccine) candidates to discern their true need for the vaccine and then to schedule their appointments appropriately.
Denise has been with us for nearly 30 years. During that time, she has experienced her fair share of changes and has served in a few different divisions. In 1993, she assisted with launching the first TennCare only Pediatric Clinic in East Tennessee, and served as the supervisor. When that clinic became Cherokee Health Pediatric Clinic, she then moved to Children’s Special Services (CSS) in our Home Visiting division before her move to TIC in 2015. During her time in CSS, Denise was responsible for case management and home visiting for children with medical issues or special needs from newborn through 21 years of age.
Denise’s co-workers describe her as having a “true love for public health.” She is also described as being “fun with a great sense of humor, adaptable, caring and compassionate.” When she is not helping to protect our community from disease, Denise loves to visit the mountains and the beach. She might also be busy with her five dogs, two Bassett/Golden Retriever mixes, two Boxers, and one Bassett/Dachshund.
Denise is a real asset to our organization and to public health in general. For more information on vaccinations, click here.
Recordkeeping is one of the most essential tasks for any organization, and ours is no exception. With the responsibility of serving every resident in Knox County, we hold recordkeeping to the highest standards possible. This co-worker and our entire Vital Records division are especially skilled at processing and maintaining some of the most important records we keep, birth and death certificates. Meet Kristie Branch, health services clerk in our Vital Records division.
Birth and death certificates are considered vital for a variety of reasons, one of which is the frequency in which we rely on that information to perform other functions in our daily lives. Birth certificates are required for attending school, traveling overseas, getting licenses, jobs and much more. Likewise, death certificates are often required for things like finalizing a loved one’s estate, filing for insurance, social security or resolving any issues after death. These records also protect us from things like identity theft and fraud.
Kristie and her co-workers are primarily responsible for processing and maintaining birth and death certificates for anyone who was born or died in the state of Tennessee. In an effort to protect health, they are also responsible for permitting local funeral homes in some of their daily operations. In addition, Kristie helps manage various databases and reports, along with processing voluntary acknowledgement of paternity requests.
Kristie has been an asset to our organization for 24 years. She started at our West Clinic and has served in a few different roles, including Vital Records and Accounting, before moving to back to Vital Records. She always greets her co-workers with a smile and has even offered a helping hand to our Accounting team when needed. In addition to her daily responsibilities, Kristie goes above and beyond to make quality improvement a priority. During her time in Accounting, Kristie helped Vital Records create a cremation permit invoicing program to help improve accuracy in tracking payments. She also set and achieved a professional goal to improve efficiency in her department by initiating and contributing to the creation of electronic receipts for Vital Records. She says, “Thanks to IT staff and input from co-workers, hand-written receipts are a thing of the past.”
When she’s not busy at work, Kristie enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren, visiting the mountains, and loving on her pets. We are grateful for Kristie’s hard work and dedication to serving our community.
For more information on Vital Records, click here.
The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” Luckily, we have co-workers who are experts on this topic. They lead the charge in guiding us and our community partners on what it means to live a truly healthy lifestyle and what steps we can take to achieve success in our lives both mentally and physically. Meet Kelley Wilds, physical activity health educator in the Health Promotion and Outreach group within our Community Health division.
Our Health Promotion and Outreach group share a variety of objectives and responsibilities aimed at promoting education and prevention for a number of public health issues. Kelley spends a great deal of time working on programs that will have a lasting impact within our community. She schedules and presents quarterly educational workshops for after-school care staff participating in the Nutrition Education Activity Training (N.E.A.T.) Program. These workshops help empower participants to teach and role model healthy behaviors to their students. Kelley also helps facilitate our Youth Health Board, which is a collaboration between our organization and Knox County Schools Coordinated School Health. The program empowers high school students to make a difference in our community through program development, volunteer activities and health-related projects.
In an effort to model the healthy behaviors that we ask of community partners, Kelley also focuses on worksite wellness within our organization. As chair of the wellness committee, Kelley works each year with other committee members to brainstorm new ideas to improve health. These efforts have included making improvements to our fitness room, creating and beautifying outdoor eating spaces, creating wellness-related policies and weight-loss programs, planning and managing fitness challenges, and planning events that foster a sense of community among co-workers.
Kelley is both the writer and editor of our monthly newsletter (KCHD Happenings) and Wellness Minute publications, providing employees with up-to-date information on upcoming events, healthy living tips and more. Kelley’s efforts have undoubtedly helped increase employee involvement in wellness throughout our building, seeing more and more participation in fitness challenges, healthy quarterly luncheons, and other wellness-related activities. Kelley says, “Even if only one person in a crowd of 100 decides to make healthy changes, I know I’ve made a difference; change one, save one.”
We are grateful for Kelley’s positive spirit and uplifting attitude, which shines through in all the work she does. You will always see a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. Kelley’s motivation and work ethic are undeniable, and her efforts will have a lasting effect on our community and our organization for years to come.
For more information on healthy living, click here.
Most organizations have employees who are essential to daily operations but often their important work takes place behind the scenes. Our entire Building Operations division is made up of employees just like that, and this co-worker is no exception. You will always see a smile on his face and may even receive some words of wisdom if you are lucky enough to stop for a chat. Meet Troy Kyle, facilities maintenance worker in our Building Operations division.
Building Operations provides direct support to more than 250 employees at our main location. They also travel to our satellite offices when needed for facility issues. Troy and his co-workers’ responsibilities are comprehensive and include shipping and receiving, daily cleaning and building maintenance, supply delivery, bulk printing of numerous educational materials, and so much more. They even help with tasks like hanging signs, renovations or moving office furniture and equipment.
It would be impossible to provide services to the public and perform our daily jobs without the support of co-workers like Troy and our entire Building Operations team. They take care of the details behind the scenes so we can all focus on our responsibilities. Troy says he is “humbled” by the work he does, “proud to provide service to everyone regardless of their status in life.” Troy also said he loves his Building Operations crew and wouldn’t be able to do his job without them, giving a personal shout out to them by their nicknames, “Big Bear, Ben, Gold Man, Dot, Johnny U, and D Smooth.”
Troy helps his team provide a facility that is cared for, clean and welcoming to anyone who walks through the doors. Whether he’s rolling a cart full of deliveries down the hall or cleaning up, Troy is a joy to work with. He always treats co-workers and visitors alike with the utmost respect. His uplifting spirit and positive attitude are infectious. Troy’s co-workers often describe him as “funny, genuine, outgoing and dedicated.” One co-worker said, “Troy has a way of making others feel good about themselves.” Another said, “Troy could brighten up even the worst day with his smile alone.”
We are lucky to have dedicated employees like Troy and appreciate all that he does to make the most out of every day.
Nutrition is one of the most important foundations for a healthy life. However, it can be difficult to really understand the difference between a balanced diet and one that includes empty calories and zero nutritional value. Not only that, there are a lot of mixed messages online and in social media about what constitutes a healthy diet. Our entire WIC division staff work tirelessly to overcome these obstacles and promote healthy families. This co-worker in particular, leads many members of the WIC team and takes great pride in her job. Meet Sarah Griswold, WIC nutrition program manager.
WIC is a federally funded nutrition program that helps the whole family learn about eating well and staying healthy. The program provides supplemental healthy foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, cooking classes, screenings, and referrals to other health and social services. WIC serves income-eligible pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women as well as infants and children under the age of five. The program is evidence-based and has been shown to improve pregnancy outcomes, breastfeeding rates, infant development, and weight status of children. Children need healthy minds and bodies in order to be successful in school, and the nutritious food and education provided by WIC helps families ensure just that.
Sarah’s role within the WIC division is vast. She is responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating annual nutrition plans, supervises 12 nutrition staff, supports continuing education efforts, acts as an instructor and mentor for dietetic interns, and advocates for WIC in the community and with health care providers. Our nutrition educators in WIC provide counseling and prescribe food packages for program participants. Sarah supports their efforts to “be the best they can be” by implementing WIC policies and procedures in a way that benefits WIC families and the program as a whole.
Sarah and our WIC division have been preparing for the introduction of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards and electronic health records. Sarah is exceptionally proud of their work to implement the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) in summer of 2017 and looking forward to offering that program again this summer. With FMNP, participants receive specific vouchers for July and August, in addition to their regular monthly benefits, which allow them to shop at our local farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Sarah has been with us for ten years, spending almost four of those years in the WIC division. She is a registered dietitian with a wealth of knowledge for nutrition and WIC. Sarah works diligently to ensure that the program is successful and her staff have the resources they need to help families in our community. She even participated in the National WIC Association Leadership Academy in 2015 and received her certificate in April 2016.
When she’s not working hard in our WIC division, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family at farmers markets, Zoo Knoxville, and area parks. We are grateful for Sarah’s dedication and service as she continues to benefit our WIC division in so many ways.
For more information on the WIC program, click here.
We work every day to ensure that all Knox County residents have safer, healthier places to live, work, learn and play. Enforcing public health regulations and educating the citizens of Knox County about good public health practices are just a couple ways in which that goal is achieved. This co-worker in particular focuses all of her time on supporting services aimed at this goal. Meet Sharon Beam, office manager of our Environmental Health (EH) division.
Our EH division oversees inspections, regulations and health code enforcement for restaurants, child care facilities and schools, hotels and motels, tattoo parlors, swimming pools, ground water waste systems and much more. They also manage our mosquito control program and our rabies vaccination program, both of which help protect health and prevent the spread of disease. Sharon plays a key part in all of these processes to ensure daily operations and scheduling for the entire EH division.
Sharon’s work involves accounting responsibilities, permitting for the food division, answering questions and fielding complaints, and ensuring a general continuous flow of daily operations in the office. She works with the public on a regular basis and makes customer service one of her top priorities. Because of this, Sharon has developed an excellent rapport with the clients who visit our EH division, especially in the tattoo program. She says, “clients and business owners sometimes feel as if they are overlooked, ignored or even discriminated against, and I want them to know that our local government is here to help them.”
Sharon has spent the last 27 years coordinating our annual Rabies Clinics, which provide low-cost rabies vaccinations for pet cats and dogs in our community. She also maintains records for rabies vaccinations in Knox County, issues rabies tags, maintains statistic reports for our groundwater and mosquito control programs, and provides support for the Knoxville City Animal Control Board meetings. One of Sharon’s greatest accomplishments, however, has been the creation and implementation of an invoicing system and database for the EH food division. This process was previously managed by the state, and Sharon’s contribution has improved both efficiency and customer service for providing food service establishment licensure. It has also helped ensure fee payment compliance, which is essential to offsetting the cost of the program.
Sharon is a major point of support for co-workers in the EH division and throughout our organization. Known as a skilled problem-solver, Sharon is routinely asked to help her co-workers with questions or issues and she always makes time for them. During her 29 years of service here, Sharon has served on several committees and participated in many of our community activities. When she’s not working hard in our EH division, Sharon enjoys spending time with her family, road trips, the beach, big cities, museums, art, music, hiking, knitting and crocheting. We are lucky to have a dedicated and hard-working employee like Sharon on our team.
For more information on our Environmental Health division, click here.
Nicole is a proud mother of two, Tavian (17), a senior, and Zakiyah (13), an eighth grader.
Our Vision is “Every Person, a Healthy Person.” Working toward that lofty vision takes a great deal of teamwork and collaboration. It also means making sure our services are available throughout our community. That is one reason our Teague Clinic in north Knox County is so very important. Our dedicated staff at this gem of a clinic provide a variety of services including immunizations, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, as well as family planning. Several co-workers at this location have made great contributions to ensuring we are serving our community in the best possible ways. One in particular has been with us for 20 years. Meet Nicole Pruitt, health services clerk at our Teague Clinic.
Nicole is very often the first person patients and clients see at Teague. She is responsible for greeting visitors, updating patient information for clinical services, and maintaining a steady flow in the clinic as patients arrive to see the nurses. Her daily responsibilities also include answering the phone, making appointments, answering questions, processing immunization certificates and providing resources for anyone in need.
Nicole is an integral part of the Teague Clinic team. She has helped with a continuous quality improvement project related to patient care and is playing a major part in helping the clinic purge paper charts since they now use electronic health records. Her co-workers describe Nicole as being “quiet but friendly.” They say, “She’s an expert at her job and has a great sense of humor.”
We are grateful for Nicole’s years of dedication and continued hard work.
For more information on clinic locations click here.
Chase is a recent newlywed. He is also a big University of Tennessee and Green Bay Packers fan, and as he says, "Go VOLS and GO PACK GO!"
There cannot be enough said about the importance of safety within any organization. Visitors and employees alike should feel a sense of security and know they are being cared for. Our entire security team does a great job of ensuring just that, and this co-worker is no exception. Meet Chase Wyrick, security officer in our Security division.
Our security team is essential to the day-to-day activities within the building. They are here before the building opens and after it closes, making sure everything is locked or unlocked at the appropriate times. Chase and his team are responsible for keeping staff and visitors at our main location safe by monitoring activities both inside and outside the building, patrolling the building and parking lots, and responding to calls for security and medical emergencies.
They are deputized by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and their visual presence alone helps ensure a sense of safety for everyone in the building. Chase and his team do so much more than just keep us safe, however. As the first faces people see upon arrival, Chase and his team also greet and assist visitors with information or in finding the proper office or clinic they might need.
Chase has to practice customer service on a daily basis and has displayed a knack for doing just that. He was even recently asked to contribute to our Coaches Corner for an organizational challenge related to improving customer service skills. He wrote, “I want to make everyone feel safe and comfortable when they are around me, so self assessment is very important in achieving that goal…I try to come across as confident, friendly and caring.” At first glance, Chase may seem intimidating because of his size and confidence, but he has everyone’s best interest at heart and is considered by his colleagues to be a fair and reasonable person, even when defusing a difficult situation.
During his time here, Chase has received an award for Rookie of the Year and finished in the top 25 of two organizational challenges pertaining to core values and customer service. When he’s not here keeping us safe, Chase loves to travel. He has been to 39 of the 50 states in America, France, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Lichtenstein, Greece, Mexico, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and Haiti.
We are grateful to have a dedicated and reliable employee like Chase on our team.
Debbie and her husband have been married for 38 years. They have three children, six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
In 2015, 40 people in Knox County were newly diagnosed with HIV. There are now at least 910 people in Knox County living with HIV. This is just one reason why our efforts toward HIV/AIDS prevention and education are so important. It takes a great team to really make any department work, and this co-worker is undeniably an essential part of her team. Meet Debbie Mashburn, licensed practical nurse and treatment adherence counselor in our Centers of Excellence (COE).
World Aids Day occurs in December each year and is an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV and bring education and awareness to a disease that so many people still do not understand. Our co-workers in COE work diligently toward that objective every day.
Our COE overarching goal is to ensure that people with HIV/AIDS who are uninsured or under-insured have access to care. We also work to reduce the stigma of the disease, provide education on prevention and disease management, and ultimately decrease new HIV infections. All of these efforts are aimed at improving the overall health of our community.
As an adherence counselor in COE, Debbie works closely with patients, providers and insurance companies to assist with scheduling appointments, obtaining medications, adhering to treatments and overcoming any barriers that the patient may encounter. This helps to ensure patients remain diligent with their treatment regimens to maintain suppression of HIV, which decreases the chance of infecting others and increases the overall health of the patient. As Debbie says, “There are lots of patients that, when they come here, have just gotten out of the hospital and have one foot in the grave, and then they come back within a year or so and you won’t recognize them because they’ve gained weight and gotten their life back on track. It’s so rewarding to see that.”
Debbie is an exceptional addition to our COE clinic and our organization. She received an Essential Piece Award, an employee recognition award given by her peers, in 2008 and obtained her certificate in HIV Prevention Counseling that same year. She has achieved numerous certificates in HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C care. Debbie has completed many other professional development trainings and currently sits on our Policy and Procedure Committee.
In her spare time, Debbie enjoys crafting, woodworking, and entertaining her great-granddaughter. We are proud to have employees like Debbie who continue to inspire and care for others, while making a difference in our community.
For more information on our COE clinic, click here.
Kerri is happily married with a sweet 2-year-old daughter and a playful dog. She enjoys exercising, being outside, reading and spending time with family the most.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States. Efforts to prevent youth from starting this potentially deadly habit and efforts to educate others about quitting can directly affect our community’s overall health. That is just one reason why the efforts of this co-worker are so important. Meet Kerri Thompson, a tobacco prevention public health educator in our Health Promotion and Outreach Division.
Kerri leads our tobacco use prevention and control program, and focuses on secondhand smoke reduction and youth initiation prevention. Her responsibilities include conducting media interviews, educating students at local schools, promoting tobacco-free public spaces, and gaining community support, in part, by facilitating the Smoke-Free Knoxville coalition, among others.
Kerri says, “preventing youth from becoming the next generation of tobacco users can make a huge positive impact on the health of Knox County, not only by lessening the risk of developing certain diseases and complications from tobacco use, but also by reducing secondhand smoke exposure.”
Another way that Kerri empowers our youth is through her leadership role with the Knox County Youth Health Board (YHB). Made up of Knox County high school students interested in public health, the YHB provides students with a platform to learn about public health through monthly speakers and a variety of community service opportunities. Community service projects and exposure to the field of public health helps ensure our leaders of tomorrow understand the importance of public health and the roles they could play in ensuring the health of our community for years to come.
Thanks to Kerri and her team, the Tennessee Department of Health granted Knox County as a Top Five County for Improvement in Reduction in Number of Emergency Department Visits from 2014-2016, which was the benchmark for tackling secondhand smoke issue. They also received a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Partnership and Contributions from Whittle Springs Middle School Parent Resource Center for continued efforts in reducing secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco prevention education. Kerri is a true leader in all that she does here and we are grateful that her work will continue to impact our community both now and in the future.
Laura Sue is married with one “very precious little boy.” They have a dog named Woodrow and enjoy spending time together as a family (cheering on the Vols, of course!).
Having a baby can be both exciting and scary for many moms, whether this is their first child or not. Luckily for moms in Knox County, our Home Visiting Division has the Help Us Grow Successfully (HUGS) program. HUGS social counselors work to alleviate any fears and provide education and support for new moms. All of our social counselors care deeply about the health and well-being of families in our community, and this co-worker is no exception. Meet Laura Sue Boling, HUGS social counselor.
HUGS is a monthly home visiting program that provides resources and support to pregnant and postpartum women, children from birth through age 5, and their primary caregivers. Once a family is accepted into the program, our social counselors form a unique and voluntary relationship with a family.
The overall goals of this program include improving pregnancy outcomes, improving maternal and child health and wellness, improving child development, and maintaining or improving the family dynamic. As a social counselor in this program, Laura Sue provides parenting education, conducts developmental assessments and helps connect families with community resources that may be useful to them. As Laura Sue says, “I also get to have a great time with some pretty cute kiddos!”
It is no secret that raising a baby is hard work. Laura Sue and the other counselors in our HUGS program strive to make things easier on parents by providing education on a variety of topics such as having a healthy pregnancy, breastfeeding and nutrition, well child exams, immunizations, safe sleep practices, family planning, school readiness, and positive parenting skills, among others. According to Laura Sue, one of the benefits of conducting appointments in the home is providing this support and education in a learning environment that is both convenient and comfortable for the entire family.
Laura Sue is also no stranger to some of our other programs and services. She began her work here in 2001 as an intern in the Environmental Health Division and completed another internship here before graduating from East Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Studies. After graduation, Laura Sue remained dedicated to our organization and started working full time in 2008 as an environmental specialist in our Environmental Health Division. She then moved to her current position in Home Visiting in August 2009.
Laura Sue is always willing to help out and currently serves on our Staff Education and Recognition Committee. Prior to joining that committee, she acted as vice chair and chair of our Employee Recognition Committee, taking responsibility for managing our Essential Piece Awards and planning other employee recognition events. Laura Sue’s dedication and positive spirit are an undeniable asset to our organization and we are more than grateful to have her on our team.
For more information on our Home Visiting Division or the HUGS program, click here.
Dan and his wife, Nan, are proud to support the endeavors of their two accomplished daughters – one in art and one in medicine.
“How do we establish communitywide understanding and value for public health?” This is one of the top four questions we ask ourselves as a public health organization. While this requires ongoing dedication, one answer to that question is clear – communication is key. We are always looking for more ways to provide information to the public in a clear, useful and effective manner. This co-worker in particular helps ensure that we are able to do just that. Meet Dan Proctor, graphic design manager in our Community Relations division.
Dan is not your average graphic designer. He was previously art director for the Knoxville News Sentinel and has an excellent eye for what works and what does not work when it comes to written and visual material. In that respect, we are very fortunate to have someone with the ability to edit and present material in a way that is useful for
our community so that we may better promote health and provide education on important topics like our Strong Baby campaign, getting your flu shot, food safety practices, infectious and chronic disease prevention, and much more.
Dan is involved in numerous projects and educational outreach efforts. His work spans many disciplines and involves a great deal of detail. As Dan says, “I try to absorb the ideas and actions of the various KCHD departments and funnel them into an easy-to-understand, but still professional format for our clients.” His work has included the creation of numerous printed materials, graphics, PowerPoint presentations and photographs. One key project was the design of our Community Health Assessment, which outlines Knox County’s priority health issues.
Dan was also involved with our accreditation process and is most proud of the work he did with our brand and style guide. As the first accredited health department in Tennessee, one of the issues we encountered during preparations was the lack of consistency in crediting our own work and using our logo. He contributed to correcting that issue and was later acknowledged by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) for our strong and transparent branding efforts. Dan found this to be very rewarding and says that recognition was “a feather in the ol’ hat.”
Dan always makes himself available to help improve the organization and provide advice or assistance to many of our co-workers. He most recently assisted with the selection and installation of our main location’s new building signs, which have proven to be beneficial for visitors in finding where they need to be or where they currently are in the building. Dan’s co-workers would describe him as having a “quick wit and dry sense of humor.” His willingness to help and talents in the world of editing and graphic design make Dan an undeniable asset to our organization. Dan says, “After a 27-year career at the Knoxville News Sentinel, I feel lucky to have a home at KCHD.”
Elaine has been married to her husband, Timothy, for 17 years. They have two children named Timothy and Tyra, a daughter-in-law named Laken, and a granddaughter named Ella Rae.
It’s that time of year again when traffic gets bogged down and parents have begun the hustle and bustle for a new school year. Back-to-school preparations may look different from family-to-family, but one thing we all have in common at some point are the requirements for proof of childhood vaccinations. What you may not know, however, is that we have an entire department dedicated to helping with this process, and so much more. No matter how busy we get during back–to-school or flu shot time, you will always find this co-worker smiling and pleasant. She leads our efforts at recordkeeping for immunizations and helps ensure a clear understanding of what is required and what parents and individuals need to know regarding vaccinations. Meet Elaine Tabors, program manager of our Immunization Program (IP) division.
Just like good nutrition, exercise and regular check-ups, vaccines play a vital role in keeping you healthy throughout your life – from childhood through your senior years. In fact, immunizations are considered one of the most important public health achievements of the last century, protecting millions from illness, hospitalization and even death. Elaine and her group work tirelessly to ensure we have accurate records of these immunizations available. They also work closely with the Tennessee Department of Health to collect immunization information which could help prevent and contain an outbreak.
Elaine and her co-workers provide education and track immunizations for various high-risk populations in Knox County, ensuring they are receiving their immunizations by the recommended age. They also provide state immunization certificates for students in Knox County Schools to verify vaccinations. Apart from recordkeeping and printing certificates for school, Elaine works with local pediatricians and medical providers on the Vaccines for Children Program, a federally funded program that provides free vaccines to children who may not have access otherwise. As Elaine says, ”We want our community to be as healthy as possible, using prevention methods like immunizations and education to promote awareness of good health.”
Elaine is more than committed to her work. She has worked here for 26 years and during that time obtained a Master’s degree in Health Administration/Informatics. She has also served on our Wellness Committee and leads by example, participating in our exercise classes and focusing on her own health daily. Elaine’s dedication and positive attitude are just a couple of the many reasons we are so grateful to have her on our team.
For more information about the Immunization Program, click here.
Bert has been married for nine years to her husband, Jason. They have two kids, AJ who is seven and Hadley who is four. They also have a newly acquired Golden Doodle named Clover, who is only two months old.
If you just thought “Epi-what?” you’re not alone. We hear that often. Epidemiology is the study of patterns in health-related events in society. A major part of understanding health-related events is monitoring infectious diseases to limit and hopefully stop transmission. One co-worker in particular focuses her entire workday on exactly that. Meet Roberta “Bert” Sturm, emergency preparedness epidemiologist in our Epidemiology division.
Bert is responsible for monitoring data in an effort to identify potential public health threats. She does this in many ways, not the least of which is by collaboration with area hospitals through the use of ESSENCE, a syndromic surveillance system. Syndromic surveillance uses chief complaints from those visiting area hospitals (such as influenza-like symptoms, overdoses, gastrointestinal illness and even health threats like smoke exposure or heat exhaustion) to
Bert regularly assists several departments with data analysis and is the epitome of a team player. She works with our epidemiology reporting nurse on disease outbreak investigations and responds to roughly two to 10 outbreaks per year. When necessary, Bert interviews patients in an effort to determine the source of their infection and provides prevention information so they do not pass the illness on to their family, friends or the community. She is also the epidemiology team lead during outbreak investigations.
Bert has worked here for 10 years and has taken on many different leadership roles over that time. She currently serves on our Policy and Procedure Committee. Bert is especially proud of the work she did to help us achieve national, voluntary accreditation as well as the extensive effort she contributed to the development of our Community Health Assessment. Bert’s work does not end there, however. She has taught an introductory course on Epidemiology and Biostatistics for the past three years at King University and is an instructor at the University of Tennessee for the student outbreak rapid response training, or SORRT. She is also the primary instructor for mental health preparedness training for our co-workers. We are very fortunate to have a dedicated employee like Bert on our team.
For more information about our Epidemiology division, click here.
Dr. Kemink is married and shares two dogs with her husband, Chris, appropriately named “Bubba the Beagle” and “Polly the Pomeranian”. The Keminks enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, camping and skiing.
Oral health is important for our overall health. Poor dental care can not only lead to cavities, gum disease and painful infections, it has also been linked to some chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately, dental care can be expensive, forcing some to go without even the most basic dental services. For this reason, our Dental Clinic plays a major role in breaking down financial barriers to oral care. We are fortunate to have dentists who devote their careers to public health rather than the often more lucrative world of private practice, and this co-worker is no exception. Meet one of our dentists, Dr. Melissa Kemink.
Each day, Dr. Kemink evaluates the needs of our patients, including developing a treatment plan and putting that plan into action. Procedures can include tooth extractions, fillings and root canals. Because prevention is such an important part of maintaining oral health, Dr. Kemink also spends
time educating patients to prevent future problems, going over oral hygiene home care, recommending dental sealants and regular dental cleanings.
As she says, “I like knowing that every time I look into someone’s mouth, I can promote positive change and help them get healthier – one tooth at a time.”
Most people do not typically like going to the dentist. And, some of our patients are not only extremely nervous, they are in severe pain. Dr. Kemink takes pride in knowing that she is making a difference in this regard, stating, “I try my best to put the patient at ease and make the numbing process as comfortable as possible. Once the patient is numb, it is very rewarding to hear that they have finally gotten the relief they have not had in days.”
Dr. Kemink is an essential part of our treatment, prevention and education efforts when it comes to oral health. We are lucky to have such a dedicated and devoted professional who truly cares about the well-being of all Knox County residents. The team in our Dental Clinic helps fill a major gap in access to care for low-income families, all while providing excellent care and comfort to their patients.
For more information about our Dental Clinic, click here.
Letha has been married for 27 years and has three children ages 21, 19, and 16. She enjoys reading and has a “newfound love" of listening to audio books.
May brings with it an entire week dedicated to celebrating nurses. National Nurses Week is a great time to stop and give thanks to those whose lives are dedicated to caring for others. Being a nurse requires an enormous amount of selflessness and compassion, not to mention a strong stomach – definitely not a job for just anyone. We are very fortunate to have many of the best and brightest when it comes to nursing, and this co-worker undeniably deserves recognition in honor of National Nurses Week. Meet Letha Hancock, advanced practice nurse in our Women’s Health clinic.
Letha has dedicated 25 years of service to our organization and in that time has displayed all of the wonderful qualities you would expect to find
in a nurse. She provides women’s health exams, birth control and family planning, and diagnosis and treatment of certain gynecological problems. She has also taken on a leadership role in her department as the Family Planning Administrator, overseeing and reporting on the Title X Family Planning Grant, which helps to provide necessary financial support for family planning and preventive health services. Letha has even received the Essential Piece Award given to employees who exemplify what it means to go above and beyond their usual responsibilities in making work a great place to be.
Letha and her colleagues in our Women’s Health clinic understand the importance of empowering women to make responsible choices regarding their reproductive life plan. In addition to family planning, women are offered education, sexually transmitted infection screening, immunizations, as well as connections to resources such as dental services, primary care and more. Letha is particularly proud to work with women at the Knox County Detention Facility and several local addiction treatment centers to provide education aimed at preventing neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which occurs when an infant is born dependent on drugs the mother took when pregnant.
Given the personal nature of a visit to our Women’s Health clinic, having welcoming professionals like Letha is an important part of establishing a trusting and caring environment for patients. Thank you to all the nurses out there who dedicate their skills and knowledge to improving our lives, and thank you, Letha, for all you do to benefit the women and families in our community.
For more information on our Women’s Health clinic, click here.
Photo Caption: Letha has been married for 27 years and has three children ages 21, 19, and 16. She enjoys reading and has a “newfound love of listening to audio books.”
Pam has been married to her husband, Monte, for 38 years. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. She enjoys vacationing at the beach and has recently become a caregiver for family members.
Nestled deep within the heart of West Knoxville is a small clinic with a huge dedication to the community they serve. As one of our two satellite offices, the West Clinic offers many of the same services found at our main location and strives to make “every visit an opportunity for health promotion.” One employee at the West Clinic has worked with us for 12 years and works directly with the public each day. Meet Pam Bounds, health services clerk for the West Clinic.
For many people in Knox County, this clinic is a much more convenient option. Employees at the West Clinic go above and beyond on a daily basis to provide education and resources, in addition to clinical services. All of our health services clerks wear many hats and Pam is no exception. Some of her responsibilities include
registering patients, scheduling appointments, processing immunization certificate transfers, reviewing vaccine records and giving recommendations, along with providing resources to anyone in need, and much more.
Pam is especially proud of her role as a certified application counselor for TennCare presumptive eligibility. This service allows her to assist pregnant women in signing up for insurance coverage so that they can immediately receive prenatal care, which is important for the health and well-being of both mom and baby. In order to receive this certification, Pam committed to a great deal of training and testing, but also went above and beyond in that role to designate a location within the clinic so these services can be carried out according to state guidelines.
Pam is described as being “compassionate, caring, loving, kind, patient, cheerful, and helpful.” Her positive spirit is definitely an asset to the West Clinic and our organization as a whole.
Brian has been married for five years and has three sons. He is a fan of the University of Central Florida football team, and as he would say, “go Knights!”
In late 2016 prior to the tragic Gatlinburg fire, wildfires raged across various parts of East Tennessee and the Southeast, making it, at times, difficult for many people in Knox County to spend even a moment outside without struggling to breathe. The air quality was unhealthy for many days. During this time, one of our departments worked diligently to monitor the situation and keep the public informed: Air Quality Management (AQM). Wildfires are not the only sources of pollution in Knox County, however, and AQM continues to use air monitors to detect any changes in the outdoor air which could be detrimental to the health and well-being of Knox County residents. In fact, one co-worker in this division plays a key role in maintaining our air quality. Meet Brian Rivera, environmental program manager of our AQM division.
Brian is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and his work here began about six years ago in the Environmental Health division as an environmental specialist. Within a year of working here, however, Brian moved to the AQM division and is now responsible for overseeing many of their daily operations. AQM provides monitoring of the outdoor air quality in Knox County and issues health-related alerts to the public. This division also regulates facilities that could be a source of industrial air contamination, issues residential open burning permits, provides technical and educational services, and much more.
Brian is directly involved with approving all facility permits, reviewing inspection reports, and initiating enforcement actions when needed as outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). By enacting regulations as stringent as those of TDEC, the AQM division is granted a Certificate of Exemption which allows them to regulate industrial pollution sources in Knox County, instead of the state. This allows for quicker complaint response time, faster permitting, and more compliance investigations. All of these efforts fall under the Clean Air Act and help to keep our communities free of air pollution and our citizens healthy.
As described by his supervisor, Brian is “extremely organized” and has “reorganized the permitting and enforcement unit into a cohesive and productive program. He's an asset to AQM and a pleasure to work with.”
You can read more about our Air Quality Management division by clicking here.
Cindy is a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. She has been married to her husband, Jeff, for 17 years. They have four children and six grandchildren. They are also active members of First Baptist Church, Seymour.
There is an old saying that many people have heard: “You can never be too prepared.” Emergency preparedness is something that most people do not think about on a daily basis, but one of our divisions does exactly that. Meet Cindy Lou Sovastion, office manager of our Emergency Preparedness and Epidemiology division.
The employees in this division work diligently to collect reliable data and understand the patterns, causes and effects of diseases in our community. They also work to ensure that there are plans in place and procedures clearly outlined in the event of a major disaster or emergency situation. This work is extremely important in identifying potential disease outbreaks or other emergencies that may impact the overall health of our citizens.
As part of her daily responsibilities, Cindy enters reportable diseases into the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) database and also maintains the National Incident Management System (NIMS) database. She is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all of our employees have received the appropriate NIMS training as required by the Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so that we can be prepared and know what to do in the event of a large-scale emergency.
Cindy also acts as a local Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Volunteer Coordinator. The MRC is made up of practicing and retired health professionals, as well as other community volunteers, who offer assistance during local or national emergencies. In addition to this, Cindy is particularly proud of her service as a member of the Family and Safety Preparedness Fair Steering Committee for the last six years. The annual preparedness fair, held at the World’s Fair Park, brings together dozens of agencies, community organizations and businesses to answer questions and instruct classes on how people can best prepare their homes, families, pets and workplaces in case of an emergency or disaster.
Cindy’s colleagues describe her as having a “great sense of style” and “witty personality” with a very “efficient” work ethic. She is undoubtedly a wonderful asset to our organization in all that she does to ensure that the residents of Knox County and the surrounding communities are able to work together and remain prepared “just in case.”
You can read more about our Emergency Preparedness work by clicking here.
After she retires, Charolette is looking forward to trips to Dollywood and Cades Cove, picnics in the mountains, reading, and enjoying a “simple life.”
She’s a petite woman with a big heart, a love for her community, and a strong devotion to her church and family. Meet Charolette King, medical records clerk for the Medical Records division of KCHD. Health records are a crucial part of our work. We use them to access important health information about patients such as past conditions, allergies, medical tests, immunizations and current medications.
The implementation of electronic health records (EHR) in May 2014 meant big changes for our medical records division, which Charolette has been involved with from the beginning. EHR offers a host of benefits including improved quality of care, accuracy of diagnosis, and efficiency in care coordination. Converting all
Aside from performing the essential task of providing health records to those in need, Charolette has set a shining example for health and wellness at KCHD. She has served on our internal wellness committee for two years and began her own fitness journey about 10 years ago by taking part in various KCHD fitness programs, ultimately earning the Healthy Way to Go Award in 2015. Charolette’s personal fitness journey began after experiencing some close calls with her health and realizing how great she felt after participating in the Bright Start program at KCHD. As a cancer survivor of 23 years, she says “I want to be a role model for my family and friends. If a person feels well, they will be positive and be an inspiration to others.”
Charolette’s smile and uplifting attitude definitely serve as inspiration to others, especially given the obstacles she has overcome in her personal life. Having lost her mother at the age of 17 and then her father by the age of 19, Charolette was left with the responsibility of raising her younger siblings. She then experienced many more challenges, which notably include her cancer diagnosis and treatment as well as her husband’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. Charolette attributes her success at remaining positive and overcoming these obstacles to her faith in God, her ability to make healthy lifestyle changes, and her friends and family.
After 20 years at KCHD, Charolette has decided to retire and spend more time with her husband of 43 years, and their children and grandchildren. On retiring, she says “I have never felt more love and support from my fellow employees. It has been a tremendous experience to share the past 20 years of my life with such amazing friends!”
Thank you, Charolette, for your dedication to KCHD and the inspiration you have given us to make the most out of life. You will be missed, but we wish you all the best in this new beginning.
Niki operating the X-ray machine at KCHD. Niki is a wife and mother with one stepdaughter and two teenage boys. She has one cat and likes to knit (although claims she’s not very good at it).
Did you know there are an estimated 20 million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S. each year? And while some are treatable, many others can cause serious health problems, even death. In addition to counseling and education aimed at STI prevention, KCHD has a department dedicated to the testing and treatment of STIs, along with tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS and screening for hepatitis C. Managing the flow of a division that does so much to help the community is no small feat, but she does it with a smile on her face and dedication in her heart. Meet Niki Ooten, office manager of our Communicable Disease Clinic (CDC).
Niki is much more than what we typically think of when we hear the title “office manager.” She not only manages staff and communication with other administrators, she also takes an active role
Testing and treatment of patients with any transmittable disease is important in maintaining the health of our community as a whole. Equally important as testing and treatment, Niki and her staff work to educate their patients and the broader community on STI prevention. These efforts help to prevent the spread of disease and reduce the financial, personal and social burden of STIs and diseases such as TB and hepatitis C in our community.
Niki has been with KCHD for 12 years. During that time, she obtained both a bachelor’s of science degree with a focus on radiology and a master’s degree in public health. She has also been a part of several continuous quality improvement projects at KCHD and was a part of the team responsible for helping KCHD become the first accredited health department in Tennessee. Niki always lends a helping hand where needed and remains dedicated to the people of Knox County. As she says, “I got into health care to help people. I thought my chances of actually making a difference would be better at KCHD.”
Sarah is the proud daughter of two immigrants from Pakistan, who moved to the United States in the late 1970s. She loves reading and has a self-proclaimed "book buying problem".
Did you know asthma rates are highest among those without a high school diploma? The same is true for diabetes, cancer and many other diseases. Health, and the opportunities to be healthy, are strongly tied to education, income, ethnicity, zip code and many other factors. For many, poor health outcomes are often the result of policies or systems that create barriers to good health. Meet Sarah, one of our exceptional co-workers who has a determination and passion for understanding why this occurs and how we can bring about change.
Health equity is about establishing and sustaining the conditions that create opportunities for everyone in our community to enjoy full, healthy lives. Currently focusing on East Knoxville, Sarah’s work is community-based and driven.
As Sarah says, “I’m proud to work alongside community members and residents in East Knoxville to develop solutions that may improve our community’s health. It’s a very rewarding and gratifying experience.”
Sarah is most notably proud of facilitating the coalition, Five Points Up, which has taken the lead on influencing positive change in East Knoxville through conversations and actions. She also serves on our organization’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, which focuses on health equity within the health department.
As crucial to determining our health as genetics and individual choice, health equity is an issue Sarah is passionate about addressing. As she says, “Knox County is made up of interconnected neighborhoods and communities, and when specific populations suffer from poor health outcomes, it affects all of us. This is what makes improving health for everyone so important.”
Verettia is the mother of two wonderful children and grandmother to a curious and happy granddaughter. She is close with all of her family and has two amazing sisters and a fabulous nephew. She also loves traveling and spending time with her miniature schnauzer.
As a University of Tennessee graduate in Public Health Education, she has a passion for ensuring safe public health practices and prevention of disease transmission. She spent 14 years as a registered sanitarian for the state of Louisiana and has been with Knox County now for 18 years. Meet Verettia Nash-Navarre, an environmental specialist (aka, health inspector) with our Environmental Health division. This division works to prevent the spread of diseases through public education and enforcement of Tennessee state laws and regulations, which is an important part of keeping communities protected.
As an environmental specialist, Verettia performs inspections on restaurants, grocery stores, schools, hotels/motels, swimming pools, juvenile detention centers, organized camps, child care centers and tattoo facilities. She investigates consumer complaints and works with her colleagues at KCHD to investigate foodborne illness outbreaks. In addition in performing various inspections, Verettia conducts food safety training classes and works at our annual Rabies Vaccination Clinic each year.
Verettia goes beyond the call of duty to represent her department at the monthly Knox County Beer Board meetings, is actively involved with our Core Competency Assessment, and serves on our Equity and Inclusion Committee. In collaboration with the Department of Human Services, Verettia also assists in child care orientation for new child care center owners and informs them of their operational requirements.
Verettia is most notably responsible for inspecting all of Knox County Schools, which gives her a great sense of accomplishment and pride. She works hard to ensure that all Knox County Schools are “in good repair and safe for our students.” That hard work pays off in the end when she gets to watch kids playing on new playground equipment or talks with them about health and safety at school. Verettia says, “All Knox County students are my children. It is a must that I ensure their well-being and safety.”
Liliana, lives in North Knoxville with her husband and young daughter. She loves family time, dancing, laughing and having fun.
Volunteering at Lonsdale Elementary School set her on a path that led her to the Knox County Health Department. Over the years, she has expanded her work at KCHD with the Walking School Bus, garnering notice not once, but twice, from the White House. Meet Liliana Burbano, our Active Transportation – Safe Routes to School coordinator. With a background in sociology and social communications, Liliana moved to Knoxville from Colombia in 2009 and in 2010 began to work part time at KCHD with our Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative. Her role evolved to working full time with community engagement and the Safe Routes to School program.
Driven by the proven public health benefits of active transportation, not the least of which is increased physical activity rates, Liliana has begun to focus more on broad transportation issues, becoming the vice chair of the Knoxville Transportation Authority Board that oversees our mass transit bus system. From her first days in Knoxville, she recognized the great cultural divide between her native country and her adopted country in terms of transportation. “Walking and taking mass transit is natural in my country,” said Liliana. While at first she was curious as to why more people drive, when they can walk, bicycle, or take the bus, she has noticed that people in Knoxville are very reactive to the weather. “You definitely see more people out in the warmer months,” said Liliana.
Liliana takes the bus regularly and is always happy to assist people with questions about the system and the routes. She even keeps route brochures and bus passes in her office! As part of her personal passion, she has expanded her role at KCHD to encompass all areas of active transportation and is working with a group from the community on policy changes that encourage active lifestyles. Liliana said, “Considering that about 85 percent of our population drive to work and most of our communities are not able to go on a short walk without facing safety issues, it makes sense to work on creating places where people can walk, bike and use transit to work, go to school or run simple errands.” In addition to KTA, Liliana serves the community through the Mobility Advisory Committee, Bike Walk Knox Advisory Committee, and many other groups. She also serves on the new KCHD Equity and Inclusion Committee. She said one of the goals of the committee is to encourage people to understand how cultural diversity can impact our health and community development activities.
Amy has many talents, having worked as a photographer, artist and teacher in the past. In her free time, she enjoys making jewelry, photography, painting and writing. She also loves exploring the outdoors.
She’s a creative spirit with a heart for social issues and promoting the emotional and physical well-being of children, families and individuals. She’s a part of a special team at KCHD that promotes healthy behaviors for youth and adults. Meet Amy, our charismatic and effective violence prevention public health educator.
Promoting healthy relationships and preventing violence is a key factor in the overall health of the community. As a violence prevention educator, Amy offers education on topics related to sexual assault, child sexual abuse, dating and domestic violence, and bullying. Relationship violence in any form is a serious public health issue because of the physical, emotional and financial damage that can occur.
Amy also provides education services within Knox County Schools on healthy relationships, identifying “red flag” behaviors and explaining the “cycle of abuse” to empower middle and high school students. She works to increase awareness about sexual assault prevention through educational training on college campuses and was one of the featured speakers in a safety video for incoming freshman at Pellissippi State Community College. Amy is a facilitator for Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children program, which trains parents, and professionals who work with youth, about child sexual abuse prevention and response. She also works with our Women’s Health Clinic to educate women in detention and addiction recovery centers about the effects of using drugs during pregnancy.
In September 2015, Amy and other professionals from local youth-serving agencies started the Community Coalition to Protect Children. They wanted to raise awareness and promote prevention efforts for the issue of child sexual abuse. Together, they have trained many professionals with Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children program. The coalition continues to reach the community with ongoing education and collaboration. Amy said, “Working with this community and all our partners has been a wonderful experience. The teachers, professors, administrators, and agency professionals I have worked with over the years have been incredibly supportive while assisting me with educating our community about these serious issues.”
Originally from Cuba, Sergio lives in Loudon County with his family, including his teenage daughter. He likes history and working in the yard in his leisure time.
Health records are a crucial part of our work. We use them to access important health information about patients such as past conditions, allergies, medical tests, immunizations and current medications. So transitioning to electronic health records (EHR) was a major shift for our organization. It meant not just adopting new software, but making sure the new system worked with our existing infrastructure and that our 100+ clinical co-workers were trained and ready for the change. This major shift required a team of dedicated employees working closely together, and one co-worker in particular played a key role. Meet Sergio Depres, our information technology manager. He helped KCHD become the first health department in the state to adopt EHR, which helps improve quality of care, accuracy of diagnosis and care coordination.
Sergio embraces information technology as KCHD moves away from paper and develops tools to be a “solution provider,” increasing data analysis and improving data flow. As he says, “I see a problem as an opportunity.” While he’s been at KCHD for just three years, Sergio has been in the information technology field for more than 20 years. He enjoys the field because it constantly provides new challenges, and even today most people are “not using technology at its full potential” either at work or at home.
Sergio has seen major changes in the field during his career as many information technology functions have been transferred to users. He is currently working on new software which will allow KCHD staff to be more productive in searching for files and sharing information. Sergio is also working on a program that will help KCHD staff report important data with more efficiency.
He wants to empower KCHD employees and help the organization continue to evolve and improve its technology capacity. Sergio believes in efficient technology solutions that employees can use with “only the necessary IT intervention.” This will allow the IT department to focus on information security, maintenance of computers and networks within KCHD. All of Sergio’s efforts allow for his department and the rest of KCHD to provide better, more efficient service to the community.
Jeannine refers to her daughters, Paula and Carolina, as the “loves of her life.” Jeannine loves line dancing at a local dance club which she calls “Joe Gym” because dancing is such a great workout. She also likes music, writing, photography and travel. She’s a great storyteller as well, so be sure to ask her about her travels and her first experiences here in the United States.
Have you ever seen someone rushing by you in the hallway who looks like they’re on an important mission, but then they look you in the eye, smile warmly and say hello? If you haven’t met someone like that, you should definitely be on the lookout for Jeannine Fort. Jeannine is one of the most dedicated and friendly employees at the Knox County Health Department.
Jeannine is a Certified Healthcare Spanish Interpreter as well as a cultural broker and patient advocate in our Women’s Health Clinic. While she is based in Women’s Health, she also responds to other opportunities to help our patients with limited English proficiency throughout the health department (that may be why she appears to be on a mission so often!). Jeannine officially joined us full time in 2013, but she also did her internship here while she was working on her master’s degree in public health.
Jeannine was born in Peru, and has also lived in Switzerland and the Netherlands, but she calls Knoxville home. Before coming to us, Jeannine worked as a freelance interpreter for more than 20 years. She also worked for the Hispanic Ministry Office of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville and for their Office of Immigrant Services.
Jeannine says that she really loves when people come back to the Knox County Health Department because they are treated so well. She makes it her daily mission to assure that every patient she comes in contact with has the best possible care including the way they are treated: with respect, kindness and readily available interpreters. Jeannine says that what goes on in the Women’s Health Clinic and with her interpreter colleagues goes beyond “just teamwork” to a level where everyone works together to make sure every patient served gets the highest and most compassionate level of care. It’s more like family taking care of each other to assure the best possible health outcomes. We’re happy to have Jeannine as part of our health department family.
Mary Ann is jumpstarting her retirement by heading to Chicago, meeting family there and driving her fun-loving, 90-year-old uncle to California so he can attend his granddaughter's graduation. After she “recovers from the trip,” she plans to spend lots of time with her four children and four grandchildren before she “jumps into volunteering.”
“Laugh every day. It’s like inner jogging.” These fine words of wisdom come from one of our longtime public health superstars. At less than five feet tall, she may be small in stature, but she has a great big love for public health. Meet Mary Ann Harrison, the nurse manager of our Immunization and Perinatal Hepatitis B (HBV) Prevention programs. Beloved by so many of our colleagues for her kindness and compassion for others, she’s also a superhero to many babies born in Knox County. One of her roles is to prevent newborn babies from getting hepatitis B. She accomplishes this by caringly following up with pregnant, HBV-positive women to help ensure their babies receive all required vaccines over the first two years of life to prevent HBV infection.
Mary Ann also supervises our Immunization Program, the division that has maintained immunization certificates and records for children in Knox County for more than 30 years.
Mary Ann is passionate about the importance of the Immunization Program stating, “Our program’s goal is to protect the health of the community by encouraging and educating the public about the proper receipt of vaccinations.” She explains that universally recommended vaccines for children is the top item on the CDC’s Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century. Thanks to Mary Ann and her team’s hard work, their program has earned awards from the Tennessee Department of Immunizations for three of the past four years.
Mary Ann has worked at KCHD for 17 years, during which she’s managed three clinics. She’s received the Tennessee Public Health Association’s Nursing Section’s Award for Excellence in Public Health Nursing Management; regional recognition for Registered Nurse Clinical Excellence; and KCHD’s very own Essential Piece Award.
It’s fitting that we feature Mary Ann and her exceptional career this month as she is retiring. She set the bar high, demonstrating excellence, professionalism and dedication. While we will miss her greatly, we strive to follow the fine example she set for so many of us. Thank you, Mary Ann, for everything you’ve done for our community and our team here at KCHD! Have fun!
When he’s away from work, Al likes to spend time with his wife of 33 years (who is a local veterinarian), his two adult sons and two dogs. They enjoy traveling, and recently fulfilled a long-time dream to take a trip to Italy. Ever the environmentalist, Al also enjoys biking on our greenways.
Have you ever wondered where to get expert opinions on how environmental issues affect the public’s health? Well, look no more. Al Iannacone, our very own environmental epidemiologist, is just the man for the job.
Al got his Master of Science in chemistry, and worked in the environmental field for 20 years before joining our Emergency Preparedness Department in 2004. His daily activities can include a wide array of activities, such as responding to questions on the hazards resulting from a landfill fire or chemical spill, doing a TV news segment on the risks associated with radon, or meeting with a group of neighbors who are concerned that there may be a cancer cluster in their neighborhood. No two days are alike and Al seems to enjoy the variety, stating, “The wide range of issues that find their way to me keeps my job interesting and ever-changing.”
There are a number of environmental situations – natural and man-made – that can affect our health. And, as Al says, “I’m here to provide information to the public on those issues, and to keep tabs on them to inform our leadership about situations that may require a response by the health department.”
Examples of Al’s work to support the health of the community are numerous, but two projects are most notable. After local groundwater contamination incidents, Al realized the need to rapidly identify nearby residents using wells as their water supply. He organized a project to identify as many of those households as possible, spreading the word about the program via the media and internet. Today, we have locations and contact information for thousands of Knox County households that use well water, so we can quickly reach out to them in an emergency. Click here for more information.
Al also worked with other agencies to start the state’s first pharmaceutical waste collection program in 2008. Since then, more than 8.5 tons of medication (not including packaging) have been collected, with benefits ranging from cleaner waterways to reduced access to drugs for abuse. For their efforts, the group was awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Solid Waste Reduction in 2010.
When not at work, Cheryl loves to be outdoors and enjoys spending time in the mountains, at the beach, or just around the house with her husband of 36 years and her three sweet rescues: a terrier mix named Pepper Ann; and two cats, Miss Kitty and Meester.
Does KCHD care about the quality of service we provide our clients? Are we always striving to improve? YOU BETCHA! And, there is probably no better person on staff to demonstrate that than our very own Quality Assurance Manager, Cheryl Griggs.
Cheryl’s job is to continuously monitor and evaluate components of clinical care to assure that we are providing services that meet best practice, evidence-based, public health and regulatory standards. This work includes the review of electronic health records, patient satisfaction surveys and the clinics used to provide patient services. Additionally, she reviews all facilities for compliance with safety and accessibility standards.
Cheryl is very invested in her work, stating, “All of this work is done through the lens of opportunity for improvement. The best part of this job is working with the staff to develop better processes that result in improved, quality services.”
A great example of Cheryl’s efforts is the new process for patient satisfaction surveys. She and her team established a continuous process that is now accessible to patients via smart phone code scanning, email and paper. Cheryl explains that, “Data from these surveys is reviewed and analyzed on a regular basis to evaluate, improve and assure quality of service. We have made some significant changes as a result of this customer feedback. And, this process has been so successful, that we have begun to expand it to include other service areas of the health department.”
Cheryl has a true heart for public health. “I have always loved public health because it has given me the opportunity to positively impact the health of the individual, family and community.” She’s proven that affection by working in public health for over 35 years. During that time, she’s worked in three counties and two states, with the past 18 years being at KCHD.
Mira Nash, Patient Services Manager/Social Counselor, Knox County Health Department Women’s Health Clinic. Mira loves swimming, listening to jazz, going to plays and traveling, but she says, “My first love is my family.”
Mira expertly provides pregnancy test counseling to women in our Women’s Health Clinic. As she says, “It is so rewarding to share the occasion in a family’s life when a pregnancy has been confirmed and to minimize their concern of not having health coverage while pregnant. Sometimes this is a happy occasion and sometimes it is a surprise, but all women are appreciative of the services we can offer them.”
Managing more than 8,000 patient visits last year, our Women’s Health Clinic provides family planning services, pregnancy testing, and some preventive services, such as gynecological exams and breast and cervical cancer screenings. Mira is a key player in providing resources that help women have a healthy pregnancy, as well as help them “be the best parents they can be.”
As Mira explains, “Women’s Health Services takes care of women so they can care for their families. We also help them gain access to health insurance during their pregnancy so they and their babies can get the prenatal care they need as quickly as possible. As we all know, healthy moms lead to healthy babies.”
She enjoys working with our Community Health division to support its Knox Adolescent Partners in Prevention Initiative (KAPPI) and the TTOPS event. TTOPS, or Teaching Teens Outstanding Parenting Skills, is a conference designed to educate and support pregnant teens and their partners while encouraging them to graduate and not repeat a pregnancy during high school.
Julie Grubaugh, Academic Health Department Coordinator. Julie loves camping, hiking, biking and anything outdoors. As she says, “The steeper, the better.” One of her biggest accomplishments was winning first place in her age group at her first Olympic distance triathlon. What makes this even more amazing is that it was just eight months after her daughter was born!
Some have likened her enthusiasm and friendliness to Tigger of “Winnie the Pooh,” a comparison that makes her smile. Meet Julie, our charming and energetic liaison with the University of Tennessee Department of Public Health and coordinator of the Academic Health Department.”
In 2011 we became the first Academic Health Department (AHD) in Tennessee, which allows us to better connect public health academia with real-world practice. This partnership serves a variety of purposes, intended to improve workforce training and education, research, and resources. The AHD allows us to provide a practice setting where graduate students apply what they learn in the classroom – much like the role a teaching hospital plays in clinical academic programs. Our model, which includes a jointly funded, shared coordinator position (aka, Julie), is an innovative approach gaining traction across the country. We were the first to publish a logic model to evaluate AHDs.
Julie coordinates all student experiences, including clinical rotations, internships and volunteering. She also serves on our policy and procedure (co-chair) and workforce development committees, which align with the AHD’s focus areas. At the University, she facilitates Master of Public Health internships, alumni outreach and career guidance for students.
Julie delights in helping place interns, mentoring them and hearing of their success. As she explains, “Students are the future public health workforce. By providing a robust, centralized process for matching students with local public health needs and opportunities, we’re increasing our capacity to provide the essential public health services while helping students better apply what they learn in the classroom.”
During the 2013-2014 academic year, 227 students contributed more than 7,560 hours at the health department through internships and clinical rotations. Student disciplines included public health, child and family studies, communications, dental, family medicine, internal medicine, kinesiology, law, nursing, nutrition, and pre-med.
Ben, center, is with Betty Mahan, left, and Anita Case, right, just after the completion of Inskip’s first paint the pavement project in 2012. Intended to slow traffic in front of Inskip Elementary School, the street mural helps remind drivers to watch the road carefully because kids are walking to school. The idea for it, and the Inskip Community Association itself, grew out of the HKHC program.
He’s painted streets, planted fruit trees and community gardens, helped build playgrounds, refurbished parks, and more. Why? Because Ben likes being outside and digging in the dirt? Well, yes, but more importantly because he believes in working alongside community members to improve health. Or, as he explains, “When communities tell us what they need to make their neighborhoods healthy, we listen and we help make it happen. Our work connects neighborhood leaders to the resources they need to bring their projects to life.”
“Public health is much more than curing disease. It’s about ensuring that each person thrives in a world that supports them and helps them reach their highest potential as a person of value. Working alongside communities to co-create active, public spaces empowers communities to take health into their own hands,” adds Ben.
Created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a practice-based program focused on reducing childhood obesity. We launched this program in 2010 in the Lonsdale, Mascot and Inskip communities with a three-year grant from RWJF. In 2013, we received diabetes prevention funding from the Tennessee Department of Health to expand this work into South Knoxville.
Ben is the father of, as he puts it, “two free-range children” Violet, 7, and Hazel, 6. He loves bicycling, gardening and “building stuff.”
Click here for more information about Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities.
Connie in her office at the health department.
If you just thought “Epi-what?” you’re not alone. We hear that often. Epidemiology is the study of patterns in health-related events in society. A major part of understanding health-related events is monitoring infectious diseases to limit and hopefully stop transmission.
So, how do we choose which diseases to monitor? It’s dictated by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, in our case, the Tennessee Department of Health. They create the list of reportable diseases based on a variety of factors, which may include seriousness of infection and/or contagiousness. There are more than 50 reportable diseases in Tennessee, and they range from bacterial infections such as E. coli to viruses like hepatitis. When doctors or labs diagnose a reportable diseases, they are required to notify local public health authorities. In Knox County’s case, that’s us or, more specifically, Connie.
Depending on the disease reported, Connie investigates and interviews patients. If there are two or more cases of a similar illness that have a common exposure, an outbreak investigation may begin. Connie works closely with our epidemiologists to help find the source of the outbreak, notify those at risk and stop it from spreading. Or as she puts in, “I function as the front line investigator to monitor disease in Knox County.”
Over the years, Connie has fostered good relationships with the infection prevention staff at area hospitals. This partnership is vital to the timely reporting that helps her monitor and mitigate illness. Her kind and calm nature is one of her greatest qualities, especially because she’s often talking with individuals and families when they are stressed and worried. Connie is a crucial part of how we effectively and thoughtfully respond to our community’s health issues.
Married for 40 years, “to the same guy,” she adds, Connie has three beautiful daughters and two precious grandchildren, Shelby and Oliver. They have a newly adopted pom mix named Teddy, who “is a rascal we fell in love with the minute we saw him.”
Click here to learn more about our Epidemiology division.
Camila teaching a food safety class at the health department
Adored by her co-workers for her bubbly personality and positive attitude, Camila has been with the health department for 14 years and an environmental specialist for 10 years. Most refer to them as restaurant inspectors, but our environmental specialists do more than inspect restaurants. They examine grocery stores, tattoo parlors, public swimming pools, convenience stores, day cares, splash pads, hotels and other facilities. They teach classes and offer educational information to help facilities better understand how to prevent illness. In fact, one of Camila’s favorite tasks is training food service employees in both English and Spanish. As one of our bilingual coworkers, she teaches a free food safety class at the health department and offers training on site as needed.
Camila excels with communicating and training all levels of food service workers from dishwashers and line cooks to wait staff, supervisors and managers. As she explains, “When it comes to eating out, people want to believe that restaurants have the tools and knowledge they need to work with health and hygienic practices in mind. We, in Environmental Health, cannot stop foodborne illness from occurring, but we can give the operators the tools and knowledge to do so. That is what I feel is the most important effort we give to the community – the power of knowledge.”
Tennessee officially adopts a new food code July 1, 2015. The new law changes how our environmental specialists review establishments and puts even more emphasis on education, which our staff, and especially Camila, love. And even better, the new food code focuses on the five risk factors that contribute to foodborne illness, such as staff hygiene and cooking temperatures.
Camila is the loving mother to her 8-year-old son, Nico. She’s the “lucky” sister of four siblings, and the “crazy aunt” to four nephews. She adores her parents, Raul and Eugenia.
Click here for more information about Environmental Health.
Charity at her desk at the health department.
After 9/11, health departments across the U.S. took on the role of emergency planning to protect public health in the event of a large-scale medical disaster. Our Emergency Preparedness (EP) division, established in 2002 through a federal grant, enhances community preparedness by encouraging and supporting readiness planning efforts among all community members, from individual households to large corporations. And as Charity is quick to point out, “Research has indicated that the better prepared individuals, families and businesses are, the more likely they are to be able to recover and bounce back from a disaster. And, unfortunately, no community is immune to disasters.”
As the regional hospital coordinator, Charity serves as the contact with all hospitals in Knox County for emergency preparedness planning and response activities. One of her biggest tasks is co-leading the Knox/East Tennessee Healthcare Coalition, which is made up of public health officials, area hospitals, emergency medical services, emergency management and other medical response agencies. As she explains, “This coalition is tasked with ensuring we have a comprehensive plan in place to address medical needs of the region following any disaster or emergency event.”
And as Charity says, “The best way to ensure preparedness is to practice.” In 2013, she helped plan one of the nation’s largest preparedness drills. Involving more than 50 hospitals and health care organizations and 1,000 volunteers, the exercise tested the region’s mass casualty incident plans and communications.
She also works with the regional hospital coordinator at the East Tennessee Regional Health Office of the Tennessee Department of Health to oversee spending and activities related to our federal grant. Charity also found time to advance her professional development last year by becoming a certified health care emergency planner.
Charity and her husband Dennis, an elementary school teacher, have been married for 10 years. They have two boys, 6 and almost 3, “who keep us busy and on our toes.” She’s a captain with the 134th Air Refueling Wing in the Tennessee Air National Guard. And she likes to run because, as Charity says, she “likes to eat.”
Click here to learn more about our EP division.
Joyce in the WIC office.
With just a smile and a few kind words, Joyce has the uncanny ability to quickly build trust and rapport with those she meets at home and at work. It’s because of this skill that Lori Emond, WIC director, frequently says with a laugh, “Joyce knows more people in Knoxville than actually live here.” A 27-year employee at the health department, Joyce’s relationship skills serve our organization well as she is respected by clients and co-workers alike.
WIC helps safeguard the health of low-income women, and children up to age five, who are at risk of poor nutrition. The program provides supplemental healthy foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, cooking classes, screenings, and referrals to other health, welfare and social services. As a health services clerk in WIC, Joyce issues vouchers to participants, explains how to use the vouchers at the grocery store, answers questions, works in the WIC demonstration kitchen and processes applications. She works closely with the program’s nutrition educators and explains that, “We, as clerks, reinforce what the nutrition educators are teaching our clients.”
Serving on average more than 17,000 Knox County residents each year, the WIC office is one of our busiest at the health department. But more importantly, WIC helps change lives. According to the USDA, the program reduces fetal deaths and infant mortality, reduces low birth weight rates, and improves the dietary intake of pregnant and postpartum women. And as Joyce explains, “Our work is vital to the health of our community because we not only give our clients access to healthy foods, we also provide nutrition education.”
Joyce has been married to her husband, Nate, for 33 years. They have one son, Kenneth, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Nate and Joyce are faithful members of McDonald Church of God, serving more than 35 years in the church. She enjoys planning parties and says she and her husband are “Volunteer fans for life.”
Click here to learn more about our WIC program.