Amanda Dylina Morse, MPH is the Syndromic Surveillance Outreach and Policy Coordinator at the Washington State Department of Health, and a member of the NSSP Steering Committee. We asked her a few questions about her career and interests so you could get to know her. Here are her answers.
How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?
I learned about syndromic surveillance accidentally when I was asked to work with a group in Bangladesh to help them analyze their clinical data. The project was a bit of a bust (I got dengue while in Dhaka doing some other work for them), but I was excited to learn more and took my current job when I graduated.
What do you do?
I handle outreach and policy for the Washington State syndromic surveillance program, which we call the Rapid Health Information NetwOrk (RHINO). Washington just passed a mandate for emergency departments to submit syndromic data to our state Department of Health, which has formed the bulk of my work.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
One of my tasks is facilitating ESSENCE trainings for our local health jurisdictions and other partners. It’s exciting to hear each group’s hopes for how to use the data as we onboard more facilities and its gratifying to watch new users become more confident.
What excites you in the work you do?
I love spending time working on new use cases (especially for injury surveillance). Clinical data is such a rich source of information.
Who or what inspires you professionally?
My MPH advisor Dr. Ian Painter has been an excellent example for being both kind and creative. He’s fantastically talented person, but so quiet about it and always so willing to puzzle out problems with students or colleagues.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to disease surveillance)?
I was very proud when our mandate passed through our Legislature. It took a lot of work to bring all the stakeholder groups together and get the language to a place where everyone was happy with it.
How long have you been involved with ISDS?
Since December 2016.
Why are you an ISDS member?
I think collaboration is important to improve practice. The closer groups from around the country and outside the US work together, the better we’ll all be positioned to improve public health.
What do you value most about your ISDS membership?
I enjoy the variety of webinars each month and the opportunities to learn from all the good things others around the country are doing.
What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance (in your opinion)?
For Washington State, I’d say onboarding our facilities. We have counties now that have syndromic data for the first time, but we’re about 27% of our emergency departments in production now, so there’s still lots of work to be done.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
People who know me well probably aren’t surprised about it, but I studied Latin for nine years and thought that I would be an archivist in a museum. I was particularly interested in numismatics (the study of coins and currency). Wealthy Romans used minting as one of their favorite ways to show their power and piety (piety for Romans was more about civic duty than how we conceptualize it) and you can learn a lot about what people valued by looking at what they stamped onto copper and mass distributed.
If you could meet anyone living or deceased, who would it be?
Secretary Hillary Clinton or Livia Drusilla.
If you were not a human, what would you be?