What I Do For A Living   4 comments

For those of you who still aren’t sure what I do for a living, this article printed today in the Twin Cities Star Tribune newspaper may help a little. 

The St. Paul Pioneer Press also carried an article today from the AP wire.

I am a member of Team Diarrhea, or “Team D” as we call it here at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH.)  There are a couple of different sections involved in Team D.  I am in the laboratory side of Team D, working with the actual specimens that people submit to the lab when an outbreak is under investigation.  I worked with all those specimens that came in as part of that recent restaurant outbreak involving foodworkers, the local outbreak that tremendously furthered our data on this Salmonella Saintpaul nationwide outbreak where tomatoes had been first implicated.  Again, I don’t work with the vegetables themselves.  That is the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s job who work across the hall from us.  I work with the samples the sick people submit.  The name of my team — Team “D” — says it all! 

I and my coworkers here in the lab analyze the submitted specimens for the presence of these illness-causing organisms, in this case, Salmonella.  Once the Salmonella is isolated from a patient’s specimen, further serotyping and DNA analysis is done with the laboratory to “cluster” cases together — to determine if they came from a common source.  The Epidemiology folks on that side of Team D compile this data and contact patients to ask them specific questions about their health history, travel and employment history, and what they’ve eaten.  More importantly, all this data is put into a nationwide data bank that one of our members helped to found some years back (“PulseNet”) and we can keep our fingers on the pulse of what is going on in other states potentially involving the same organisms.  Widespread outbreaks involving common food sources can then be identified and acted upon.   

I’m proud of what I do and this is why I work hard and have little interest in returning to the “private sector” to do microbiology in some reference lab.  I like making a difference!

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Posted July 24, 2008 by StPaulieGrrl in Career

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4 responses to “What I Do For A Living

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  1. Way to go, Team D!

  2. Thanks!

  3. Good job. It was a good article in both papers. It is an important job you do.

  4. Now you know why I didn’t want to eat the jalapenos at supper the other night!

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