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100 public health fellows and counting - multiyear program at ECDOH supports health and human service agencies


Tue, Nov 28th 2023 02:55 pm

By the Erie County Department of Health

The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) filled its 100th public health fellow position in November, marking a milestone for the largest public health corps program in New York state.

Funded through the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), public health fellows work full-time in county health departments or community-based organizations. New York state initially established the program to build public health capacity to support COVID-19 vaccination operations and increase preparedness for public health emergencies.

In Erie County, fellows have been assigned to the cancer services program, health equity, harm reduction, public health clinics, epidemiology and public health emergency preparedness. In addition, fellows are embedded with nearly 40 nonprofits and community groups, focusing on projects that reduce health disparities and contribute to positive health outcomes.

“Having these fellows helps our department and the greater community in two ways,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “First, they fill roles that organizations are not otherwise able to fund, which expands the reach of their work and allows them to build new programs and services.

“Second, we know that the public health field is losing employees to retirements and other industries. These fellows learn on the job, developing skills in data analysis, client outreach, patient education, risk communication and more – we expect that some of them will emerge as our future public health leaders.”

BPPN CEO LuAnne Brown said, “Our fellows have been wonderful additions to Buffalo Prenatal Perinatal Network – one of our fellows has written grants for almost $50,000. The fellowship program has been a great asset to our nonprofit and I am certain for many nonprofits.”

211 WNY Contact Center Director Dawn Vanderkooi said, “The public health fellows have provided significant support to 211 WNY through contributions to operations, marketing, outreach, and the development of community partnerships. We are fortunate to have the talents of seven fellows to be better able to provide our core services and create innovative programs to help in sustainability of this important community resource.”

Tiffany Lewis, founder and president of Confident Girl Mentoring Program, Inc., said, “We deeply appreciate the New York State Public Health Fellowship and the chance to partner with skilled and enthusiastic individuals. This fellowship allows us to further our mission and focus on innovative and impactful initiatives such as mentorship, menstrual health equity and mental health education, which unite communities and promote positive health outcomes. The work provided by these fellows and the knowledge they gain is invaluable. We take pride in being part of this program and supporting the upcoming generation of public health leaders in New York state.”

Healthy Community Alliance CEO Ann Battaglia said, “As a New York State Public Health Corps host site, Healthy Community Alliance is honored to be helping our region build public health capacity. The fellows who have worked and continue to work within our organization have been instrumental in strengthening partnerships and referral pathways toward improved maternal and infant child health. Through this partnership with Erie County Health Department, the fellows have helped leverage the assets of our rural communities and foster cross-sector collaboration to strengthen family wellbeing.”

MATTERS Network Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joshua Lynch said, “MATTERS partnership with the public health fellowship program has been crucial to help link patients to care, distribute harm reduction supplies, and expand our program statewide. We are greatly appreciative of our amazing fellows that we have been fortunate to work with!”

Erie County began placing fellows in May 2022, and Fellowship Coordinator Tania Islam drew from a steady stream of applicants from backgrounds as varied as education, nursing, business, health care administration, mental health and public health.

In addition to the organizations quoted above, other placement sites include Back to Basics Ministries, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, D’Youville University, Feed Buffalo, Galactic Tribe, Grassroots Gardens, Healthy Home Headquarters, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Literacy Buffalo Niagara, Massachusetts Avenue Project, Our Mommie Village, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Ovarian Cancer Project, Partnership for the Public Good, Project Mona’s House, RAHAMA, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Institute, Rural Outreach Center, University at Buffalo, Upstate NY Poison Center and Value Network.

As fellows move to permanent positions with county government and other agencies, or leave to pursue further education, the program coordinator pulls from a pool of qualified applicants from across New York state.

The program is expected to be funded through June 2024.

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