Outstanding Epidemiologist of the Year

Outstanding Epidemiologist of the Year

To honor someone who is considered to have ongoing excellence in epidemiologic practice demonstrated by consensus of peers, leadership, or other colleagues AND either or both of the following impacts:
  1. Significant impact in an area of expertise or on epidemiology practice across the state (improvement to epi practices in Kentucky, increasing the epi capacity to respond to public health issues, events or crisis, coordination of a significant or large-scale epi response, contributions to overall epi operations or processes in KY)
  2. Significant impact on the health of the population of Kentucky (imputed or quantifiable reductions in morbidity or mortality for a particular outcome based epi practice, imputed or quantifiable improvements in health or health practices due to epi practices, significant epi contributions to apply practices that will have a long-term impact on the health of Kentuckians)

2023 Recipient: Sivaram “Ram” Maratha

2022 Recipient: Courtney Marshall, MPH
Informatics Epidemiologist II/NEDSS Coordinator

This year’s recipient for the Outstanding Epidemiologist of the Year award has proven herself a major asset to Kentucky’s COVID-19 response; however, her efforts will extend far beyond the pandemic.

While serving as lead epidemiologist on many data integration initiatives, our recipient has fostered strong relationships with local, state, and federal entities to better enhance Kentucky’s ability to detect, respond and report infectious diseases. Due in part to her leadership, her team has broken down barriers of the public health informatics infrastructure to provide enhancements such as:
  • Rapid onboarding of facilities to submit electronic lab reports (ELRs) and electronic case reports (ECRs),
  • Implementation of automated data processes, reducing manual data processing and the cost of in-person hours,
  • Implementation of new message mapping guides to improve the data quality transmitted to CDC,
  • Creation of a bi-directional data flow between NEDSS and Kentucky’s Contact Tracing and Tracking (CTT) software,
  • Creation of a data interface between NEDSS and the Kentucky Immunization Registry (KYIR)
As one letter of recommendation states, “She has been a problem solver in a time where things were uncertain and everchanging. She has no hesitation to help others with the upmost patience and respect while discussing the improvements of workflow decisions and providing training assistance”. Her work ethic is truly exemplary of the award category itself.
2021 Recipients: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on epidemiology and this year, KPHA wishes to recognize two epidemiologists from among the many worthy nominees.

Benjamin Scott
Epidemiologist III
Division of Maternal & Child Health, KDPH
Nominated by Brittany Bell

The definition of outstanding reads “exceptionally good, distinguished, striking, prominent” and Ben Scott exemplifies these words. As an epidemiologist, he has been a vital asset in assisting Kentucky communities from behind the scenes. You may not know him personally, but his work has led to informed decision making across the Commonwealth. As the lead data analyst for the COVID-19 response, he was the pilot creator of critical infrastructures used in assessing community vulnerability to COVID transmission, including the COVID-19 Daily Report, Geographic Information System (GIS) dashboards and the Key Indicator Monitoring Report. His work received national recognition when published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) in August of 2020.

He has also made significant contributions while working with the Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Program, including the successful implementation of the EnviroHealthLink system, collaborating with other programs, including the Kentucky Asthma Management Program (KAMP) and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), to make data accessible in a one-stop location to support data driven decision making.

Many letters of support from leadership at DPH and peers were written in support of Mr. Scott’s nomination and they spoke of his consistency, confidence and kindness. One supporter said, “I am proud to work alongside him because he makes me want to be a better worker. He inspires me to approach an issue from multiple angles – to step back and evaluate a situation with greater detail”. Another stated, “He leads by being among the greatest examples of those who are dedicated to public health’s mission of Prevent, Promote and Protect”.

Kristy Bolen, MPH
Epidemiologist II, KDPH
Nominated by Megan Hurst & Kayla Bebout

“A flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all,” is a quote that is said to exemplify her. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has risen above hardship to be a leader that was needed in responding to the crisis at hand. She has acted as a pilar of strength and wisdom in a time of uncertainty, and has continued to be a beacon of light for colleagues in the face of adversity.

As an epidemiologist, her work has been focused on infectious disease response and mitigation efforts. Her career began at the local level working as a regional epidemiologist, in which she served her community through both the H1N1 and Ebola responses. She later accepted a position with the Kentucky Department for Public Health as the Epidemiology Coordinator, in which she supervises and oversees the regional epidemiology program. In this role, she has served as a mentor and role model for new and seasoned epidemiologists, leading by example and pushing others to think beyond conventional norms.

Letters of support were numerous and came from multiple regional epidemiologists and peers. They describe her as “very supportive, encouraging, and understanding when it comes to working with her team” and “always willing to make time for us; she will always take our calls, even while we are in tears, and provides comfort, guidance and support.” Another letter of support states, “In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘A sign of a good leader is not how many followers you have, but how many leaders you create’ and she has created epidemiology leaders across Kentucky.”

2020 Recipient: Tracey Jewell, MPH
Epidemiologist III
Kentucky Department for Public Health, Division of Maternal & Child Health

This year’s nominee for Outstanding Epidemiologist of the Year has shown relentless dedication to the improvement of maternal and child health (MCH) epidemiology in Kentucky. Her years of service to the state and countless contributions to MCH surveillance systems all provide overwhelming evidence of just how “outstanding” one individual can be.

Our nominee has truly outdone herself, generously serving in many roles within the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) and in many different programs, oftentimes serving as program manager.

Programs that have benefited from her expertise include the diabetes program (chronic disease branch), WIC, HANDS, First Steps and Child Fatality Review. This year’s nominee was also instrumental in writing the grant application for Kentucky to become a state participant in the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).

Our nominee has also shown great support of others within the workplace. One letter of support states, “When we struggle, she provides encouragement, and when we succeed, she provides recognition”. Another states she is a perfect display of integrity, thoughtfulness and kindness.

One of her colleagues states, “Few mothers and children know the impact that her work has had on their lives. She does not seek praise or recognition, but that does not mean she is not deserving of such”. It is with great pleasure we present the Outstanding Epidemiologist Award to Tracey Jewell, Epidemiologist in the Division of Maternal & Child Health with the KY Dept for Public Health.

Past Winners

2019: Rui Zhao, PHD
2018: Jody L. Schweitzer, MPH