Originally Published July 11, 2011
Where you find Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., you usually also find DPH Chief of Staff Jamie Howgate. Often serving as the Commissioner’s second in command, this senior member of the Department’s executive leadership team sat down with PHWEEK to answer the most top-of-mind questions – What are our challenges? And what are our priorities?
As Chief of Staff of a new state agency, what are your top priorities?
My first priority is to pursue Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s agenda of protecting the lives of Georgians. My job is to make sure that agenda is successful, and I will work with anyone in the state to make that happen.
In addition to overseeing day-to-day operations for the Commissioner, I’m also working closely to facilitate the Department’s strategic plan, which includes four health priorities for Georgia: immunization, tobacco cessation, obesity and targeted infant mortality.
In your opinion, what are some of the challenges DPH will face as a new department?
Our first challenge as a new department is to ensure that DPH is steady and solvent. We’re working to build a solid administrative infrastructure across the entire Department. We also face budgetary challenges just like other state agencies.
I also believe that one of the most immediate challenges we face moving forward is to restore Public Health throughout Georgia. We have excellent support in our 18 Health Districts and 159 counties, and we need to strengthen those partnerships and operate as a more cohesive unit, while continuing to protect and improve the health of Georgians.
Describe your background in Public Health
I’m an epidemiologist by training. I began my career in Washington, D.C., with a brief stint in the private sector before moving to Atlanta to work with the Georgia Emerging Infections Program. From there I went to the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness where I served as the Director of the Division of Population Health and later as the Epidemiologist for a strategic planning unit in the County Manager’s Office. In July 2009, I came to work at the Department of Community Health as the Departmental Enterprise Coordinator. I’m proud to now serve the Commissioner of new the Department of Public Health as Chief of Staff.
What first interested you in pursuing a career in public health?
I’ve met very few people who set out to pursue a career in public health, but I quickly found myself enjoying the work and wanting to do and learn more. I am motivated by the work that we do to protect the population as a whole. I’m fortunate to have a diverse background that has helped prepare me to take on my new role in DPH.