Guest Column: Public Health is Changing

Health & Wellness Op-Ed

By Julie Drake
RBC Public Health Director
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | I was flattered when I was accidentally identified in last week’s newspaper as a new public health nurse. Nurses are

Julie Drake
some of my favorite professionals. Nurses are vital and important keys to good healthcare. Not only do they have great assessment, technical writing, and lifesaving medical skills, they are a busy physician’s “right hand.” Care, compassion, knowledge and expertise, who wouldn’t want to be associated with or mistaken as a nurse?
I am the new Rio Blanco County Public Health Director. I have the big shoes of Karen Iacuone RN to fill. She and I switched employers. She is now the Chief Nursing Officer for Pioneers Medical Center (PMC) and I am the former Occupational Therapist for PMC. Both of us are thrilled with our new positions. She is still a nurse at heart and I an Occupational Therapist, but with additional education, training and expanded duties for leadership.
Ashley Garcia is the sole Rio Blanco County Public Health Nurse, with Holly Knowles as the administrative assistant. Another RN will soon be added to the team.
Colorado Public Health dates back to the first recorded epidemic in 1849 when travelers along the Oregon Trail began to die of cholera after drinking from polluted wells in the Julesburg area. Later in 1858 thousands flocked to the Rocky Mountains for gold. There was little sanitation in the mining camps with sewage being dumped into streams. Typhoid fever quickly spread and became another epidemic.
In 1876, a Board of Health in the Colorado Territory was established, consisting of nine male physicians. The board’s goals were to study vital statistics, study the influence of climate on disease and health, make sanitary investigations on the cause of disease and recommend hygiene for schools. Public health has evolved, expanded and has been challenged with many more duties since those early days.
I will highlight the current role and mission for Rio Blanco County Public Health in coming columns. In the meantime, stay healthy!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our apologies to Julie for accidentally turning her into a nurse last week, and congratulations on your new position!