Author’s Note: This is the last post in a three-part series on my “final thoughts” on my work at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene over the last six years. My last day there is today. In about three weeks, I’ll be a full-time student in the Doctor of Public Health program at Johns Hopkins University. Part one is HERE. Part two is HERE. As always, all opinions (and, why not, some of the facts) are mine and do not necessarily represent the opinions of anyone other than myself. (Hopefully you read part two and know why.)
I made a lot of good friends while working at DHMH. It was wonderful to see some of them get married and have kids, while others had grandchildren or children who grew almost right in front of my eyes. There were plenty of colleagues/friends who came over to our house and watched a movie or had dinner with us. And, like I said in part two, there were plenty who came to our wedding. Honestly, I don’t think I made a single enemy at the office. I either made friends or colleagues, or both.
A couple of friends I made are Amanda and Adam Palmer. They’re a great pair, and they have three wonderful children. My wife and I agree that we should aim to be like the Palmers. They’re so “right” for each other. Another one of my friends at the office, Katie Richards, married her husband shortly after joining us. (As a matter of fact, I interviewed Katie when she first applied to work there.) Just a few weeks ago, they celebrated their second wedding anniversary. Time really flies. (Katie’s cubicle is also where I’ve been known to hide when my phone rings off the hook.)
Then there was Marvin Rock, DrPH. Marvin was an epidemiologist who worked in outbreaks. He got his doctoral degree and is now a “Big Pharma Shill” with a pharmaceutical company doing marketing research. He is a very well-dressed young man. I hope one day to finally follow his advice and wear a “professor-like” jacket to school. You know, the one with patches on the elbows?
There is also Brenna, the Emilies, Kia (whom I am always humoring with my jokes), Tara, Kurt, Amy, Brian, and the rest of the “kids.” I started calling us kids and the bosses “the adults.” I’ve made a great bunch of friends, and I’m going to miss them dearly. Though, I have the sneaking suspicion that our paths will cross again, being as how I’m going to be in public health at Hopkins right there in the city.
Even the people with whom I didn’t become “friends” are good people and excellent professionals in public health. I learned a lot about public health, epidemiology, and public policy. I learned that the politicians like to get involved in things that they know nothing about, and that it takes a special kind of person to be able to deal with all of the political horse manure that is expected at a busy state health department.
The enemies that I did make are not people that I see every day. Heck, some of them I’ve never seen in my life. Oddly enough, 99% of them are in the anti-vaccine camp. This leads me to believe that they would probably like me as a person but hate my stance on vaccines and other public health interventions that have saved countless lives throughout the years. So I have no ill-will toward them. We all fit in some place in the big machine that is life. They do their worst. I do my best.
There are two people in the office who became my mentors: Dale Rohn and John Sweitzer. Dale was my supervisor in the division of infectious disease surveillance. Like me, Dale used to be a lab tech before he went into epidemiology. Unlike me, Dale works out every day and looks good for his age. He tolerated and defended me in those times of trouble when the anti-vaxxers decided to make that trouble. His guidance in epidemiology (and more than a few pearls of wisdom about life) will come in handy in the next few years, and maybe even in the next few decades.
John Sweitzer worked in the cubicle next to mine. Talk about someone with a lot of experience in public health. John retired after 20+ years of working at the Baltimore City Health Department and then went to work at DHMH. He knows the ins and outs of the office, especially our division. If I had a question, he had the answer. A very bright guy and great company on long days at the office, John is also another person I consider to be my mentor. I want to be like him when I grow up, always involved in public health, always making the right choices, never getting outwardly upset, blowing off the egos.
I’m going to miss all the people there, to be honest.
And Now, the Epi Ren Rises
The next phase of my life is going to be a tough one, but it is going to be incredibly rewarding. I’ll get to study public health and epidemiology with top-notch professionals from all over the world. Not just anybody goes to Hopkins. Not just any kid born and raised in Mexico goes to Hopkins. So I am incredibly happy and feel blessed to be given this opportunity. A lot people are counting on me, and I hope to be able to rise to the occasion.
All good things must come to an end.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.