262: Meet ASTHO’s New President

Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO’s New Board President and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, looks at the year ahead and the work she hopes to continue; Mike Fraser, ASTHO CEO, discusses the White House request for emergency monkeypox funding; and you're...

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Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO’s New Board President and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, looks at the year ahead and the work she hopes to continue; Mike Fraser, ASTHO CEO, discusses the White House request for emergency monkeypox funding; and you're invited to sign up for ASTHO’s Public Health Weekly newsletter.

National Coalition of STD Directors Webpage: National Monkeypox Working Group Letter Voices Support for White House Monkeypox Request

ASTHO Webpage: Newsletters

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, September 14th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



I don't see this position about me. This position is about public health, and I'm just fortunate enough to have my time to serve for a bit. But my goal is to make public health better, to make healthcare better, and overall to make the health and wellbeing of the people we serve the best it can possibly be.


Dr. Anne Zink of Alaska with her take on becoming ASTHO's new board president yesterday during membership meetings in Atlanta. As she considers the year ahead, Zink is careful not to project what's up next for public health.


I think the past few years has made us all humble to predicting too much of the challenges and what comes forward. But I think that the exhaustion and the fatigue, as well as some of the polarization and politicization that we've seen over the past few years, is going to really follow us into the future. I've often heard comments like, "Well, how come we haven't done better about monkeypox," or whatever the challenge is. But until we create systems that are better set up to respond, we won't have different outcomes.


Zink hopes to continue the work of her predecessor, Dr. Nirav Shah of Maine, noting her message to ASTHO members.


I think for the SHOs, for the other state and territorial health officials, my hope is that they would feel listened, that they would feel supported, and that they would feel valued. That they felt like they could reach out if they needed help or had a question or wanted to see something different, and that ASTHO and I as a president were responsive to that. And they felt like this was a safe place to go, a place of both solace and camaraderie. But also a place of solutions, not a place of just admiring problems, but a place of collaborating to find solutions to problems.


Dr. Zink says she's learned a lot from watching Dr. Shah lead the organization during the pandemic and while on a visit to his home state.


I got to see him out in Maine when I was out there actually looking at colleges with my daughter. And we went to a pizza restaurant and, you know, I get stopped quite a bit here, but he got stopped a lot as we were in that pizza restaurant and, you know, he was in his hometown. And it was just fun to see people's response to him and appreciation for his incredible commitment and communication. I went to the grocery store and I turned on the radio and it was him talking to a newscaster about a beach towel that he didn't have and he should have had, and he was gonna sell it on eBay to raise funds for public health, and it was just funny and fun.

And so I think, I don't know what advice he'd give me, but what I have learned from him is the importance of humor. He's just really good at that.


And how does she feel about her new responsibilities?


I'm excited for it. It's a real opportunity. I think I'm more just humbled by it. I can't really believe that I will get the opportunity to serve in this role. I, every single day, look at my calendar for the week and I'm like, "I'm really meeting with that person. I'm really having this conversation." And I pinch myself and just remind myself how lucky I am in that space, and then remind myself that we all bring different things to it.


ASTHO members also chose Dr. Steven Stack from Kentucky to be their new president-elect and Dr. Scott Harris from Alabama as their new secretary treasurer. You can read more about ASTHO's new board officers using the link in the show notes.


ASTHO is among several public health organizations supporting the White House request seeking $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the nation's monkeypox response. On Tuesday, some members of the group spoke to the media during an online call.

David Harvey is executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors.


We are only as prepared as our healthcare system. And right now, the clinics around the country that are being asked to respond to this crisis are starved for resources. It is past time for Congress to act and allocate critical emergency funding to support the public health system and the response to MPV.


ASTHO's Mike Fraser says the money is needed to support every aspect of the response.


We are looking for resources for state and territory health departments to continue the work of addressing health equity, of promoting vaccination campaigns, training outreach and public communications, providing the essential surge capacity needed to our state and local STI programs and clinics providing surge capacity, to laboratories enhancing our surveillance infrastructure, and including funding for new epidemiologists, engaging with community-based organizations to support culturally-tailored education. And yes, even for administrating vaccines.


Janet Hamilton is executive director of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.


We need to be able to support implementation of dashboards and data visualizations to publicly display data, to timely share the information around cases, including their demographic information, and to also be able to submit that data to CDC around cases and contacts in the required formats.


There were others who spoke at the event Tuesday. We'll report their comments on Friday's newscast. Also, you can find a link to the working group letter in the show notes.


Finally today, get news like this sent to your email inbox when you sign up for ASTHO's Public Health Weekly newsletter. There's a link in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

David Harvey MSW

Executive Director. National Coalition of STD Directors

Janet Hamilton MPH

Executive Director, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

Anne Zink MD FACEP

Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska