In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses with the Alaska Division of Public Health have found a place to shine during the fight against the disease, and now a local Homer Public Health Nurse is being recognized for that work.
From Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink to local nurses coordinating pandemic response, Public Health workers have put their specialty in the spotlight. Last month, Lorne Carroll, the leader of Homer’s Public Health team, won an academic scholarship to take his career to the next level. Carroll was one of two Alaskans selected to the Bloomberg Fellows program. He will pursue a masters in public health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University, Baltimore. The 2020 group includes health professionals from 27 states and the District of Columbia. Also receiving a fellowship is Jennifer Harlos, Family Birthing Services Nursing Quality Liaison at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage.
“We are thrilled to welcome this new class of Bloomberg Fellows to the School,” said Bloomberg School Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie in a press release. “We look forward to equipping the fellows with the skills and knowledge to tackle some of America’s toughest health challenges.”
“America was facing a disturbing decline in life expectancy even before COVID-19 hit, and now public health leadership and innovation are more critical than ever,” added Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “I’m glad to help welcome a new class of fellows to the best public health school in the world — and I thank them for making this commitment to such an important field.”
Carroll, 43, said that even before the pandemic, the Bloomberg public health program was done through distance learning. He will be able to continue to work for Homer Public Health while pursing his degree. Carroll will focus on addiction studies, one aspect of the work he does in Public Health.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing I’m doing in my work,” he said in a socially distant interview last Friday outside the Public Health offices on Bunnell Avenue. “From the public health perspective, all disparities come from the same root causes: intergenerational trauma, colonization, and adverse childhood experiences.”
Raised in rural Missouri south of Kansas City, Missouri, Carroll and his brother were the first of his generation to graduate from college. Before going to college, Carroll worked as an urban firefighter in Independence, Missouri. While he enjoyed the work and the comradery, he wanted to do something that used his brain even more. He got a bachelor of science in nursing and his Registered Nurse status at Roxhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri.
First working as a traveling nurse, Carroll got assigned to a lot of surge wards — the rush of constant nursing. When he took his first public health position, he saw how nursing could lead to systemic change at the community level. He said he found “the way to improve health care in a community is one person at a time.”
Carroll came to Alaska in 2009 to work with the Norton Sound Health Consortium in Nome, working in tuberculosis intervention and treatment. He moved to Homer in April 2014 to work with the local Public Health office. As team leader, he guides his staff in applying the principles of public health nursing: focusing on the wellness need of the entire population, assessing local public health, paying attention to health determinants, promoting primary prevention, and intervening at all levels from the individual to the community. More simply, Carroll said Public Health nurses connect resources.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carroll said it proves a point he would make in training public health nurses. Part of the shift is from nursing for individuals to learning about community-wide health care.
“You’ll feel good about that some day, I promise,” he said he told new public health nurses.