COVID-19 Response: Matt Wiley, MPA '17
If you had to condense your job description at DOH into an elevator pitch, how would it read?
My main responsibility is to plan, train, and exercise with local health departments to receive, distribute, and dispense medical countermeasures to their residents in response to a public health emergency. Medical countermeasures are generally defined as FDA regulated medications, which usually includes both antibiotic and vaccine based medications as well as personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and masks.
How has your day-to-day job changed amid COVID-19 concerns?
There is no question my day-to-day job has changed immensely. My responsibility during this response has been to organize and track transports of all critical infectious disease specimens statewide to our lab at the Wadsworth Center in Albany. I have spent time in the State Emergency Operations Center, as well as our Department of Health warehouse, where we confirm requests and manage shipments of medical supplies. We are receiving numerous shipments of PPE from private vendors and the federal government, and are working to ship it back out to counties for further distribution to health care facilities and first responders.
What is it like working in emergency management during a pandemic?
In a phrase – fast-paced. During a pandemic like COVID-19, where priorities, medical guidance, and infection rates can change by the hour, you have to be able to pivot and change your priorities to meet the needs of leadership and the public. This includes information sharing as well as plan development and boots on the ground response. As anyone in emergency management knows, you have to be flexible and willing to take on assignments outside of your comfort zone in order to contribute and be a successful part of the mission.
How do you think your education helped prepare you for the work you are currently doing?
There’s no question the education I received at Rockefeller helped me to succeed in my current position. Working with the great faculty and staff helped me to understand the world of emergency management and also public administration in general. In the public sector, you have to work with many different agencies, as well as the private and nonprofit sectors, so you have to make sure you have the knowledge and skills to interact with a variety of state and non-state actors. Rockefeller helped me prepare for this by designing a well-rounded curriculum.
What is one piece of advice you would share with current students interested in pursuing a career like yours?
Whether paid or volunteer, getting experience in the field can be invaluable. For me, time as a volunteer EMT and officer in a local EMS agency has helped to provide significant context to the lessons learned at Rockefeller. It’s important to gain the classroom knowledge and get opportunities to apply that knowledge out in the real world. If you’re able to do both at the same time, you can gain a deeper understanding of the field level policies and procedures. Showing you have both the classroom and field experience to an employer may also give you a leg up in your job search.