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Honoring Health Department Employees During National Public Health Week

The work of public health can often go unnoticed. Every day, a dedicated group of people works to make sure everyone has safe food and water, clean air, protection against diseases, and equitable opportunities for good health. The first week of April is National Public Health Week (April 2-8). For more than 20 years, we have celebrated these behind the scenes protectors.

National Public Health Week gives us an opportunity to honor our employees who exemplify our mission to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. Staff received awards in different categories and recognition for years of service to the agency. This year, service longevity awards went to nearly 50 employees, including eight who have been with the Department for 25 years and three for 30 years.

Our annual employee recognition ceremony was April 5. For the second straight year, our theme was Rock Stars of Public Health. Please join us in recognizing this year’s Rock Stars for all they do to make Pierce County a healthier place to live, learn, work, and play.

Katie Lott Communicable, Disease Division—Director’s Award

Lott sets an example of how to lead in the community and the Health Department as our food and community safety program manager. Her program is invisible to most of the residents of Pierce County, yet can attract some of the worst attention. She is always responsive and able to negotiate the personalities and the public health needs to achieve the best outcomes. Her team speaks of her commitment to provide excellent customer service to the community, and her expectations that they do the same. She’s been at the Department for 12 years.

Website Development Team—Deputy Director’s Award

The Health Department’s Website Development Team started with a vision for a new, customer-friendly, interactive, and easy to use website. They had a mission to get it launched in one year. They worked with staff to update content and brought the average reading level for our web content to 8th grade to improve accessibility for all visitors. The team completed the website redesign ahead of schedule, came in under budget, and maintained a positive and collaborative atmosphere throughout the project. They delivered a great product that benefits our customers and the entire agency. 

Chris Morrison, Administrative Division—Outstanding Employee

One of the Health Department’s goals is to ensure our financial sustainability and capacity. Morrison has an important role in meeting that goal. As a senior accountant, she’s an expert in all things accounting. For 11 years, her technical capability in Excel, and her in depth understanding of the operations of the Department and its programs have contributed to the financial health of the agency. We are so glad she is on this mission—so we can achieve the Department mission to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County.

Charron Plumer, Communicable Disease Division—Outstanding Leader/Mentor

Plumer is a public health nurse and program manager in our Communicable Disease Division. She’s been at the Department for 13 years. She encourages growth and innovation, trusts her staff as subject matter experts and values her teammates’ contributions. She encourages innovation and creativity; provides positive feedback and practical solutions; and demonstrates interest in staff both professionally and personally. She sets a positive example and is always available with advice, wise counsel, support and great listening skills. Through her example, she embodies the Department’s values of respect, leadership, and integrity.

Som Phaisan, Communicable Disease Division—Unsung Hero

Phaisan’s contribution to the Health Department and our community may be easy to overlook. He’s a tuberculosis disease investigator in our Communicable Disease Division. Every day he travels all over Pierce County to deliver medications to patients wherever they need him. A lot of patients don’t understand why someone from the Health Department needs to observe them take their medicine. Phaisan explains to every patient the benefits of directly observed therapy—it ensures a cure and protects the patient from drug resistance. He knows his job and has done it quietly behind the scenes for 31 years.

Kaitlynn Forsberg, Environmental Health Division—Ray of Sunshine

If you’ve visited the Health Department front counter, you may have seen Forsberg’s contagious positivity and cheerfulness. She’s been an administrative assistant for two years. Her happy, bubbly personality and helpful spirit have an incredibly positive effect on co-workers and customers. She proactively gets to know her teammates and her customers. She is easy to talk to, always has a smile on her face, and a kind word to say. Even when faced with unhappy or frustrated customers, she helps them with kindness, grace and a smile. She goes above and beyond to help whenever asked.

Richard Buckwald, Strengthening Families Division—Outstanding Customer Service

Buchwald is such a reliable and welcoming presence in our methadone clinic, when he’s on vacation clients worry about where he is. As a medical office assistant with 26 years at the Health Department, he understands clients, cheers them up with witty jokes or comments, and quickly helps them get what they need so they can be on their way. For the past three years, we have surveyed our clients to ask who deserves a pat on the back. Every year Buckwald receives the most nominations. No one can replace his attitude or knowledge in the front office.

See the video of winners and finalist from this year.