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Leslie Vick 

Rebecca Villa-Winsett

Local Emergency Response Coordinator (LERC)
Kiowa County Health Department
Community Health Services

29 years of service

Who inspires you?

My parents and my son inspire me to be a better daughter and Mom, however, it is my work family who inspires me to be a better person.

I have witnessed my co-workers collect money from each other to help an indigent patient. I’ve seen staff work during breaks and lunches to make sure our clients’ needs are met. I have even seen a nurse save a child’s life in the lobby with the Heimlich maneuver.

The dedication, compassion and love our staff demonstrates for the people we serve, inspires me every day.

Got any favorite quotes?

“You always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretsky

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." Maya Angelou

"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do." Mother Teresa

“It's like my father always said to me, he said to me, he said, Roseanne Roseannadanna, it's always something. If it isn't one thing--it's another! It's always something.” Gilda Radner

If someone was interested in a public health career (or one in your field), what advice or encouragement would you give them?

I would say be open to change. The field of emergency preparedness is dynamic and in a constant state of motion.   Our planning is based on what is happening locally, although very much influenced by state, national and world events.  With new threats comes new technologies which change the way we respond to public health emergencies.

Now is an excellent time to consider Emergency Preparedness for a career.  Along with baby boomers, the field of emergency preparedness professionals is aging and needs a boost.

How did you start working in public health?

Early in my career I worked in the field of aging, and I was intrigued by a position as an Eldercare Case Manager offered through the Oklahoma State Department of Health in southwest Oklahoma.  I worked in this capacity for 13 years, eventually becoming a Coordinator - supervising case managers in several counties.  The program ended and I had an opportunity to become an Administrative Programs Officer, supervising the clerical operations in multiple counties.  This opened the window for me to learn and be very familiar with the many programs of Public Health – from WIC to Family Planning to Environmental and more.

In 2011, a brand new position was created with CDC funds through the OSDH Emergency Preparedness and Response Service. The position was designed for Community Health Services to assist Directors in meeting the ever-growing CDC request for deliverables. I was selected to be the first Local Emergency Response Coordinator (LERC) for then Director Keith Reed, and now Director Brandie Combs.

After almost 29 years, I feel like I have truly found a new passion and calling.

Can you share a few highlights of your experience in public health in Oklahoma? What is the most rewarding part of your work?

One of the highlights I experienced in public health was being selected as the 2003 “Oklahoma State Board of Health Excellence In and Service to Public Health Award”. I accepted that award during a presentation at the annual OPHA conference. It was a bittersweet time, considering the Eldercare Program ended a couple of months later.  This experience taught me humility and to not take my blessings for granted.

Another highlight was staffing an OKMRC hydration and first aid station for the 2013 Oklahoma premiere of the film “The Lone Ranger” and meeting actor Johnny Depp!

In your role, how do you educate people about public health?

The counties in my jurisdictions all have health coalitions and Local Emergency Planning Committees. I represent public health at these meetings and share preparedness resources as well as provide county status updates.

Another effective way I educate staff and community members about public health (and preparedness in particular) is through full-scale exercises conducted annually. Our jurisdiction recently completed a point of dispensing facility set-up for emergency medications at two different sites. The community was able to see planning in action, which incorporated many sectors such as law enforcement, county commissioners, emergency management, volunteers and county health department staff.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is probably making time for everything I need and want to do – and I want to do it all! Time management skills and the ability to prioritize are sometimes a challenge.

What is the most rewarding experience you have had in public health?

As I mentioned earlier, one of the responsibilities in my position as a LERC is to coordinate Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps (OKMRC) volunteers for public health emergencies and non-emergency events. The volunteers in my units have taught me the true meaning of service and altruism. Several volunteers drive hours to reach a response destination, and there is no recompense other than knowing they have improved the life of another human being.

In 2013, OKMRC was activated to respond to the tornadoes in central Oklahoma. I was assigned to Moore.   I was a member of team dispatched to the miles of ravaged homes and businesses to dispense tetanus shots. It was an experience I’ll never forget. There were tears and hugs and stories shared between immunizations - yet through this devastation I saw hope. I witnessed people coming together – churches, agencies, and volunteers. Although my role in the emergency activation was small, I was proud to be part of this public health response.

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