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Uinta County Herald | Perkins takes control of public health

EVANSTON – The work of public health workers has certainly become more visible in the nearly two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, although that work has always been vital to promoting the health of communities. Evanston’s Kim Proffit, former Uinta County’s public health director, has certainly seen a lot of publicity over the past two years as she has driven much of the county’s pandemic response.

Now, Proffit will help lead public health programs in five counties, having been promoted to a regional nurse monitoring role in Uinta, Platte, Goshen, Albany and Laramie counties, while Callie Perkins will take on the role of Uinta Public Health Caregiver County has taken over.

Perkins officially took up her new position in mid-November after previously serving as Director of Nursing at South Lincoln Medical Center in Kemmerer. Previously, she worked for several years at Wyoming State Hospital, where she worked her way up from CNA to RN in various departments including infection control, quality assurance, performance enhancement and employee training. Proffit will continue to operate primarily out of Evanston and travel to other districts as needed.

As the pandemic continues, much of the work by Perkins and Proffit will continue to revolve around COVID-19, including public communications, contact tracing and responding to surges, planning and running vaccination clinics, and more. Perkins said she is lucky to take on her new role after the local health department has already refined things like vaccination clinics, which include not only administering the vaccinations but also planning, scheduling and recording records.

Proffit and Perkins said the public health service remains busy vaccinating county residents against COVID-19, especially since vaccinations were approved for anyone aged 5 and older and boosters recommended for everyone within 6 months or more of receiving a second were dose. Proffit said she had received many calls from parents with questions about the vaccines and said she recently attended a training session with health care professionals from the CDC. “There has been a lot of disinformation and misinformation and a lot of parenting concerns,” said Proffit, “but after taking this training and seeing the data for myself I’m really confident that this was a really well thought out decision by the CDC. Very few side effects were reported in this age group of 5 to 11 years. ”

Both Proffit and Perkins said it was rewarding to vaccinate children and learn their reasons for being vaccinated. “Many of these children were prepared and decided to take the pictures themselves. You are so brave, ”said Proffit. “We loved seeing the children’s reasons for vaccination.”

In addition, both said that the COVID-19 vaccine clinics for young people were an excellent opportunity to remind parents of the importance of other vaccinations for children and to educate children about these vaccinations as well. “Vaccines were generally taken for granted until COVID emerged,” Proffit said. “This really put them back in the spotlight, and we’ve had people sharing stories about other vaccines, like side effects from the first polio vaccine. In comparison, the COVID vaccines are surprisingly fine-tuned. ”

Perkins said she looks forward to moving to a role focused on prevention in community health, especially after working in a critical access hospital and directly with seriously ill COVID patients. “Every department in South Lincoln has been affected by COVID,” she said. “Now I’m on the prevention side instead of caring for patients in the intensive care unit.” Proffit said that Perkins’ firsthand experience with COVID patients gives her an invaluable perspective on the county public health department brings along. “COVID has changed everything about how public health is responding,” Perkins said. “We’re much more vigilant now.”

While COVID continues to dominate much of her work, Perkins said she looks forward to getting through the pandemic and is focused on some of the work that was pushed into the background during the pandemic, including the Healthy Evanston initiative launched years ago. “I want to be able to pay equal attention to something other than COVID,” Perkins said, noting that public health work includes studying and addressing things like health inequalities in populations and across different demographics. “It will be nice if not every conversation revolves around COVID.”

Proffit said she looks forward to helping build more communication and collaboration between counties across the state so that, for example, good ideas from one area can be translated into another. After investing so much and investing so much time in responding to the pandemic, Proffit said it would be difficult to break away from that direct involvement, but feels in good hands with Perkins. “I’m grateful that she has a good brain,” she said.

Proffit continued, “Responding to the pandemic has been challenging but also very meaningful. I am grateful for the kind of person that she is and the experience that she brings with her. It’s hard to give up my old position in the middle because this community is so important to me. I’m relieved that it is so important to Callie too. The change into a new role brings a bit of relief, but also a bit of heartache. ”

“I won’t get a cold turkey cut off,” joked Proffit. “I’m still here to support Callie, but she has her own ideas and visions. I look forward to supporting other nurses in their role that can be so rewarding and really important, but also kind of scary and overwhelming. ”

Both Proffit and Perkins shared their appreciation for community health workers throughout the pandemic. “We empathize with the people in our community who are mourning losses,” said Proffit. “COVID was and is very tough for our community. History will look back as great ramifications and repercussions will continue around the world. I am very grateful to our community for pulling together, helping each other and being friendly. ”

“I am Dr. (Michael) I am especially grateful to Adams, the county health officer, and other good people in good places, ”Proffit continued. “He was quite brave and I appreciated working with him and having his support.” Repeating this assessment, Perkins said: “The decisions that have had to be made in recent years have been brave.”

Proffit also expressed its appreciation for Dr. Alexia Harrist, who is responsible for Wyoming State Public Health. “It’s still there,” she said. “We have seen many health directors across the country quit because of threats, but she’s still here and still taking care of it even after receiving threats. She is so dedicated and motivated and I wish everyone could know that. “

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