Spotlight on Our Team
In each issue of the Epigram, we are pleased to introduce you to a member of the Disease Prevention and Response team at SRHD. In this issue we feature Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS), Kirsten Duncan, MPH. Kirsten works in our HIV/STD Prevention program where she focuses largely on syphilis investigation, treatment, and contact tracing.
Tell us about your background.
I’m originally from the Chicago area, but moved to Washington to attend University of Puget Sound for my undergraduate degree in Comparative Sociology and Biology. After a brief stint back in the Midwest to complete my Master’s in Public Health with an emphasis in Community Health Promotion from University of Minnesota, the natural beauty of the Northwest brought me to Spokane. I worked as a community health worker in the First Steps program prior to joining the HIV/STD Prevention program at SRHD in 2015.
Describe your work at SRHD.
As a DIS, I am primarily responsible for investigating new or suspected cases of syphilis in Spokane County, with a special focus on pregnant women. Syphilis case investigation consists of reaching out to those with new syphilis infections to ensure they understand the infection and have been adequately treated. I also reach out to individuals who may have been exposed to syphilis to ensure they have access to testing and treatment. Sometimes this means getting into the field, knocking on doors, and drawing blood in unusual places. Aside from DIS work, I also work in our needle exchange, provide STD education to healthcare and service provider groups, and advise on Human Growth and Development curriculum in local school districts.
What interests you most about communicable diseases?
I love the puzzle that a new syphilis case presents; every piece of information you gather from different sources comes together to tell a story of how the infection spreads through a network. No two cases are the same, varying significantly in symptoms and timeline, and I learn something new from each case that I investigate.
Favorite part of your job? Or proudest work-related accomplishment?
I never know how my day is going to unfold, and it’s certainly never boring! My job provides a nice balance between office and field work, and I get to work with an incredible group of people that are passionate about the work we do and dedicated to the communities we serve.
What can we find you doing when you’re not at work?
When I’m not at work, you can find me hiking with my dogs or in my vegetable garden!
For more information, Kirsten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, the New York Times ran a piece last summer highlighting the challenging work of Disease Intervention Specialists in The Sisterhood of Sleuths.