Dr. Ahmed and Her Epis are Trying to Save You, Kansas

Originally published on Kansas Reflector. Written by C.J. Janovy.

Looking ahead to a long weekend celebrating workers, let’s pay respects to one category of laborer most of us probably never thought about until the last few months: the epidemiologists of Kansas.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know there was an official state epidemiologist. But of course there is — Farah Ahmed, one of a dozen epidemiologists and more than a dozen other professionals in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Response.

Ahmed recently showed exceptional grace with a couple of Kansas Legislators.

Back on Aug. 12, Ahmed gave an overview of her department’s work to the Legislature’s special committee on economic recovery, convened to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Among her office’s most basic services is being available whenever doctors need help.

“We answer phones — 24/7, 365, there’s always at least one epidemiologist during normal times,” Ahmed said. “And during COVID times I think we rotate on four epis” — epidemiologists’ cute nickname for each other belies the seriousness of their work — “on call at all times so that we can answer questions from local health departments and providers.”

Her testimony was an info-packed crash course in the complexities of managing public health not only in the best of times but also now, as the state’s death count escalated over the summer.

Afterward, Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Republican from Parker, complained about a handout.

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