When public health emergencies arise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one is of the primary federal agencies that must answer the call for action.
Mobilizing and equipping the doctors, epidemiologists and other scientists to cope with infectious disease outbreaks and natural disasters requires a great deal of planning, coordination and support, a job that falls to Philip Navin Jr., the CDC’s director of emergency operations.
A retired Army colonel, Navin heads CDC’s emergency operations center that is on call 24-hours a-day, seven days a week, and serves as the agency’s central point of contact for reporting and responding to public health threats.
Navin and his team quickly find experts to answer requests for assistance from state and local health departments, federal agencies, public health practitioners and officials from overseas. Between 2004 and 2012, the emergency operations centers handled an average of 23,000 requests per year.
The center staff also has gathers and disseminates timely information, provides equipment, supplies and travel arrangements to the CDC personnel responding to the public health events, and quickly transports life-supporting medications, samples and specimens around the world.
Who is Philip Navin, Jr.?
POSITION: Director, Division of Emergency Operations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
RESIDENCE: Tucker, Ga.
EDUCATION: University of Montana, B.S.; Webster University, M.A., health care administration
AWARDS: University of Montana, B.S.; Webster University, M.A., health care administration
HOBBIES: Watching college football, and hope to be fishing in retirement
“We don’t do the on-the ground-response, but provide a detailed plan as well as the resources and the public health experts from the CDC for both big and small events,” said Navin. “We provide situational awareness of what is taking place and work with our scientists to get information to physicians, hospitals and public health officials.”
The CDC’s emergency operations center was created in 2003 in the aftermath of the 9\11 terrorist attacks, and has responded to more than 50 major national and international emergencies with public health implications, including foodborne disease outbreaks, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the H1N1 influenza outbreak, the Haiti cholera outbreak, the global effort to eradicate polio, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and the multi-state outbreak of outbreak of fungal meningitis.
Prior to Navin’s arrival, the CDC’s response center consisted of available conference rooms with limited equipment. Today, it can accommodate up to 230 personnel for each eight-hour shift to handle situations ranging from local emergencies to worldwide incidents.
Michael Vineyard, who specializes in emergency preparedness issues at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Navin created a professional, disciplined and improved emergency communication and response operation for the CDC.
“Phil has made a big difference,” said Vineyard. “He has built an emergency management structure that is more focused and effective.”
Ellen Morrison, the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Crisis Management, said Navin is “a very strong leader” who has instituted a highly organized CDC emergency response capability.
“I can always count on him when we have issues of mutual concern,” said Morrison. “He is the go-to person at the CDC if you want to get something done.”
Navin said building the emergency response capacity and aligning it with the coordinated federal program has been hard work, but a rewarding endeavor because it is helping people in distress and saving lives.
Navin, who served in the military for almost three decades and has been at the CDC for the last 10 years, said his career choices stem from his parents, who instilled “a sense of service and a willingness to sacrifice for others.”
“Serving your country is tantamount to serving your next-door neighbor,” he said. “Every day, I look in the mirror and ask myself if I did the best I could today.”
This article was jointly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service, a group seeking to enhance the performance of the federal government, and washingtonpost.com. Go to www.servicetoamericamedals.org/nominate to nominate a federal employee for a Service to America Medal and http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/fedpage/players/ to read about other federal workers who are making a difference.