A Proud MDHer   2 comments

That stands for Minnesota Department of Health where I’ve worked for the past seven years.  I become more and more proud of my contribution to that organization all the time.  Here’s what the St. Paul Pioneer Press had to say about us this week:

While others celebrated the holidays, Minnesota investigators were tracking a killer.

A nationwide salmonella outbreak had sickened hundreds of consumers, leaving a growing death toll, and nobody was sure why. Within days, state investigators in St. Paul had cracked the case – tracing the salmonella to tainted peanut butter from a troubled Georgia plant.

How did they do it? That’s what Congress wants to know as it seeks to improve the nation’s uneven food-safety patchwork. If the salmonella outbreak revealed how the food-safety system faltered, it also showed how Minnesota investigators shined during a deadly outbreak.

“Time and time again, it’s the foodborne disease unit at the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture that has come up with the answers,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

More than 40 states were involved in the peanut case, but Minnesotans were the first to zero in on the type of tainted peanut butter. The first to trace it back to a Georgia plant. The first to confirm salmonella in peanut butter. And first to warn the public about the danger – prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to shut down the plant that same day.

“Because institutionally-served peanut butter, in five-pound containers, was identified by the state of Minnesota as a potential vehicle, our investigation began with a strong lead: the brand name of a company and the address to begin our trace,” the FDA’sdirector of food safety, Stephen Sundlof, told Congress last week.

Minnesota officials credit no single thing for making the system here work. It’s a complex network and a culture of teamwork: health and food investigators who work side-by-side; state laws that provide strong consumer protections; good facilities and resources to detect problems; and experienced investigators who know how to interview patients, trace products and draw linkages.

“It’s almost thinking like a criminal investigation, like you’re trying to solve a murder,” said Mike Schommer, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Here’s how Minnesotans cracked the peanut case, as told by some who helped do it. (Read full article here.)

I’ve never experienced such pride in what I do and who I do it for. I feel that the chances are quite good that MDH will be my last employer — that is, until I get a job in a bead store upon retirement! Even my husband has resigned himself to this probability. I say this because I am a public servant and I do not get paid what I could be making in a different kind of organization. I took almost a $2.00 an hour pay cut when I accepted this job at MDH seven years ago and resigned my position at a large HMO here in the Twin Cities. Over the course of seven years, I am now making the wage that I could have been making at my former job just weeks after leaving in 2002 when the HMO gave technologists in my position a raise to boost them up to community standards. I, on the other hand, have dealt with periodic freezes on my wages and nominal pay increases when they do occur. The union representing the professional State of Minnesota employees has tried to no avail to get the State to evaluate what it’s paying its professional employees and bring them up to comparable wages that they could be making elsewhere, but this has yet to happen since I’ve been there.

My husband shakes his head at my “folly” when I could be making more bucks working for someone else, but I enjoy what I do and I’m proud to be a member of the team. That counts for something. In fact, it counts for a whole lot to many people in a variety of ways.

In fact, I think we should celebrate with a “poop cake.” One of our chief epidemiologists on Team Diarrhea got one for his 40th birthday a few years ago, and it was a hoot. It looked something like this:

Poop Cake

Poop Cake

Yes, we ate it and laughed hysterically about it.

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Posted February 20, 2009 by StPaulieGrrl in Career, Minnesota

Tagged with , , ,

2 responses to “A Proud MDHer

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  1. That’s definitely something to be proud of! It’s good, too, that you enjoy your work.

    That cake is hilarious! Completely with kernels of indigestible corn. 😆

    (I’ll catch up on email tomorrow. It’s been a busy day and I’m about to collapse.)

  2. Oh, my son would love that cake. LOL.

    You should be proud of the work you do. You are keeping thousands of people healthy. Good on you!

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