CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Public Health employee Julie Stephens has been honored as one of three Iowa Public Health Heroes by the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
The award, which was announced last month, is given annually to local leaders who have worked to promote a healthier state “through wellness and disease prevention initiatives and demonstrated the values of the College of Public Health,” according to the college’s website.
Recipients work across all fields, but all must work primarily in Iowa and contribute broadly to public health.
Stephens is a public health emergency preparedness and disaster recovery specialist at Linn County Public Health. Other award winners include Linda Kalin with the Iowa Poison Control Center and Denise Wheeler of the Iowa Department of Public Health, who were honored with Stephens at the end of November.
“It was so touching,” Stephens said in an interview with The Gazette this month.
Stephens was nominated by several of her colleagues across Eastern Iowa, as well as Kaitlin Emrich, assessment and health promotion supervisor at Linn County Public Health.
“There were many of us that felt that (Stephens) was best for the award,” Emrich said.
Stephens has worked with Linn County Public Health since 2003 and has been in her current position since 2009.
Among several coalitions and initiatives, she serves with the Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster, a coalition of organizations that seek to minimize the impact of emergencies and disasters in the county.
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In a College of Public Health news release announcing the award winners, Stephen was cited for her leadership and expertise during the flood of 2016 and the H1N1 pandemic, or the swine flu outbreak, in 2009.
“Definitely, she stood out in those events,” Emrich said. “She provides leadership continually, but those events were used as examples because people understand what we went through as a community through those events.”
Stephens also manages the fiscal agent duties for the Sub Service Area 6A health care preparedness coalition, a six-county service area that is a part of a statewide initiative focusing on public health, hospital and emergency medical service preparedness. The state had previously operated under a different model for preparedness coalitions.
Emrich said the timing of this switch — and the way Stephens took the new structure in stride — spurred her to nominate her colleague.
“She really focuses on making sure that she’s doing things correctly and done the way they are intended to be done, and very conscientious of accountability and making sure resources are being appropriated correctly,” Emrich said.
Throughout her career, Stephens credits others for her success, stating that their willingness to collaborate and work together made everything possible.
“The key thing is in a day for industry competes with industry, health care systems compete with health care systems,” Stephens said. “But when it’s preparedness, it’s not like that. If you sit around table when people are working on a preparedness issue, you wouldn’t even know they are competitors.”
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