Teresa Hamby works on the Surveillance Team for the Communicable Disease Service at the New Jersey Department of Health, and is a member of the NSSP Steering Committee. We asked her a few questions about her career and interests so you could get to know her. Here are her answers.
How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?
I first learned about disease surveillance when I started with the NJ Department of Health in July, 2001. My supervisor at the time was closely following the NYC health surveillance activities and wanted to institute something similar in NJ. For the first weeks of my new job, I wasn’t sure where to start. Then September 11th happened, followed about a month later by the Anthrax letters going through a local post office to our location. With the help of CDC and later, Homeland Security funding, NJDOH was able to set up statewide emergency department surveillance. I was hooked as soon as I could see the potential of how SyS could benefit public health in our state.
What do you do?
I am on the Surveillance Team for the Communicable Disease Service for NJDOH. NJ’s emergency departments submit SyS data using Health Monitoring’s EpiCenter. My primary role is to coordinate and oversee the NJDOH side of that system, working closely with the vendor and colleagues to maintain and enhance the system where possible.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the combination of public health, data, statistics, and working with colleagues both in NJDOH and ISDS. Both communities have helped make my career fulfilling and interesting.
What excites you in the work you do?
Knowing that we have a system that can ramp up or down depending on the circumstances and seeing it benefit other programs’ work like emergency preparedness and occupational injury surveillance.
Who or what inspires you professionally?
Working with colleagues and seeing how much more we can do to promote syndromic surveillance both locally and nationally.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to disease surveillance)?
I think I’m proudest of having all but one of our facilities in our SyS system without a state mandate.
How long have you been involved with ISDS?
I have been involved in ISDS since the beginning, starting with the first meeting at the Academy of Medicine in NYC circa 2002(?) even though NJ did not start conducting statewide SyS until mid-2011.
Why are you an ISDS member?
ISDS has been the community most relevant to my work in SyS since the beginning. I make connections and have a go-to group for helping with questions and conundrums. The Society is an incredibly important resource in my career.
What do you value most about your ISDS membership?
Working with and learning from incredibly smart and interesting colleagues who believe in what we all do.
What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance (in your opinion)?
Marketing the value of our work to those outside of the community who may be able to provide support and reap the benefits of our work to help what they do.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I almost went to pharmacy school and I worked in a doctor’s office before I found public health so I know a little bit about pharmacology and private medical practice in addition to surveillance.
If you could meet anyone living or deceased, who would it be?
Mother Teresa (and not just because of her name 😉)
If you were not a public health analyst, what would you be?
Book editor or voiceover artist