(Originally published in What’s Happening in HSPA, Winter-Spring 2012)
Nicole Smith PhD ’02, MPH ’90 writes, “It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 1/2 years since my big push to finish my dissertation and actually graduate. Hopefully I no longer hold the record (or second place) for taking the longest to finish my degree. Aside from the pressure to free up a slot for incoming students, my primary motivation was to qualify for CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) program. As an EIS Officer, I participated in two responses related to the World Trade Center attacks, as well as the response to the SARS outbreak.
“Those experiences helped shape my future career moves, including working as a policy director for CDC’s domestic immunization program and then taking a more specialized focus on influenza, specifically the development of routine vaccination recommendations issued by the
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and serving as a leader of CDC’s Pandemic Influenza Task Force.
“More recently, I spent almost three years in Hanoi, Vietnam, assigned to the WHO country office’s Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response Team, including more than a year as the Acting Team Leader—a responsibility I was given the same week that the first pandemic influenza H1N1 cases were reported!
“Since returning from Vietnam in August 2010, I’ve been doing more traditional policy work at CDC—first as the associate director for policy for the Influenza Division, and now for the Center for Global Health, where I’m responsible for coordination and integration of policy, short-term and long-term issues management, and strategic partnership efforts including congressional relations, budget formulation, and program evaluation and monitoring.
“One of the things I love about my current position and my overall career at CDC is the opportunity to address a wide range of public health issues with different partners and stakeholders. In my varied roles I have assisted in the investigations and/or mitigation of public health threats including perinatal hepatitis B transmission, a cancer cluster among children in Nevada, arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh, rash illness among US schoolchildren, polio eradication in Kenya and India, and avian influenza H5N1.
“As a result, I have had some truly unique experiences. For example, in September I was back in New York City, not for the official 9/11 memorial events, but as a member of the U.S. delegation to the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases,
which allowed me to be in the front row on the main floor during one of the plenary sessions.”