Human Science Grad Enjoys Time as CDC Public Health Fellow

JANUARY 30, 2014 - Human science alumnus Jacob Bueno de Mesquita (NHS’12) has spent the last two years working in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Associate Program.

The competitive two-year program places associates in a state, tribal, local, or territorial public health agency to work on prevention along with other professionals, the CDC’s Web site says.

“It’s been a great training opportunity in terms of gaining perspective on what front-lines public health practice entails and what it means for citizens locally,” says Bueno de Mesquita, who is completing his two-year assignment at the Union County Health Department in Marysville, Ohio.

He says it has been “eye-opening” to experience both the federal and local perspectives on public health governance.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have had this unique opportunity,” he says.

Preparedness and Response

Bueno de Mesquita, who is in the process of applying to graduate school in public health, says he spent the first year of the program focusing on emergency preparedness and response.

“Much of my work in the first year focused on developing biological terror response plans for the central Ohio region,” he says.  “I ran statistical models to optimize the design of PODs [or points of dispensing] that will enable local jurisdictions to effectively provide prophylactic medications to large populations within an extremely restricted time frame.”

He also had the opportunity to collaborate with first responder partners, including fire and law enforcement agencies.

“I was somewhat nervous the first time I gave our division’s emergency response pitch to a bunch of fire chiefs to ask their support in our efforts,” he says.  “I gained a whole new respect for our first responders after forming close working relationships with many fire, law enforcement, and emergency management personnel.”

‘Public Health Infrastructure’

In addition, Bueno de Mesquita has tackled “all-hazards” response plans for issues such as extreme weather, pandemic influenza, and radiation exposure.

“We are working hard to ensure that the entire public health infrastructure is prepared and ready to help people at a moment’s notice, especially those at most risk,” he says.

He also participated in a vaccination and education campaign related to HPV – the department administered twice as many vaccines compared with the previous year – and helped obtain data to guide future immunization efforts.

Bueno de Mesquita notes that another memorable part of the program involved visiting the national nuclear test site in Nevada, where he learned about radiation surveillance and decontamination.

“We learned how to survey and perform decontamination on individuals who had come into contact with radioactive particles,” he says.  “This is one example of the many diverse and sometimes unexpected experiences I’ve enjoyed with this program.”

Environmental Health and Infectious Diseases

Going forward, Bueno de Mesquita says he plans to focus on environmental health and infectious diseases.

“I became interested in the study of infectious diseases during my undergraduate work in the human science major, through the Translational Health Science Internship in Argentina, and through immunology coursework with Dr. [Pablo] Irusta,” he says.  “This experience in public health has really opened my eyes to the profound ways environmental factors may impact the way infectious diseases impact population health.”

He points to his undergraduate major as having prepared him well for his career path – ranging from exploration of the intricacies of the cell with Alexander Theos, PhD, assistant professor of human science, to communicating science effectively with J.P. Hyatt, PhD, associate professor of human science, to learning about aspects of public health promotion and the health care system.

“I think all of us in human science gained a solid background and understanding of biological health science, scientific discovery, and creative problem-solving,” he says.  “Many of my NHS studies in human science and global health provided me with a strong foundation.”

By Bill Cessato