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.