Another Circle Is Now Complete

A plague reads "College of Physicians of Philadelphia 19 South 22nd Street Founded 1787 Medical Library Mütter Museum FC Wood Institute"

The first week I started working at the Maryland Department of Health in 2007, we faced an interesting situation when a person who worked at a government office building came down with legionellosis. Legionellosis is a pulmonary disease caused by the Legionella species of bacteria. It is usually associated with exposures to fine water mists, […]

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Let’s Get Caught Up

Orange tabby cat on her back, showing her belly.

Did you miss me? I know I haven’t been writing here as much as I should, but I have been writing. I’ve been writing over at Medium, and I’ve been trying — trying hard — to keep it professional. It has been hard to keep it professional with so many attacks on public health. From […]

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The End of a Chapter

This week marks the end of my time as the chief of the outbreak team. The positivity rate in our health district is now at 1.25%. In Maryland, it is at 1.98%. In Washington, DC, it is at 1.5%. The number of cases from congregate settings has dropped precipitously as vaccination uptake reached well over 90% in most facilities among their residents, though it could be better among their staff. Overall in the communities, more than half of eligible adults have been vaccinated, with many parents taking their younger kids to get vaccinated and younger adults also participating (thanks in part to schools and universities requiring vaccination before returning to in-person teaching).

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Twenty Years Since…

Most if not all of my friends and family looked at me like I was a salamander on a salad when I told them that I wanted to move out to the East Coast after college. I had never been east of the Mississippi. The farthest from the El Paso region that I had gone […]

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The Abuse You’re Going to Have to Take


It’s been a weird pandemic. From day one of the response, I was asked to manage several very young and very bright public health workers for several jobs. Later on, I was promoted to managing other public health workers. Through it all, I’ve tried to follow one rule: Always be on the side of my […]

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Operation Onesimus

Onesimus was an African slave brought by force to what was then the Massachusetts Colony. The knowledge and wisdom he brought with him saved lives at a time when smallpox was pandemic. I hope to be able to use all of the knowledge and wisdom of the people around me to do what I can in this pandemic.

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So I’ve Been a Little Busy

One of the jokes that my wife and I made as I got the new job is that I wouldn’t have time to get in trouble. Because, apparently, I tend to get in trouble when I’m not busy enough. I think it’s more like trouble finds me, and then I pay attention to it when […]

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The Parent Ren, Part IX: Ren Returns… To Public Health

Commute map

Life is all about adjusting. From the moment you are born, you have to adjust to the world and people around you. WIth my new job come some big adjustments, and I find myself missing my baby girl a little more these days.

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The Parent Ren, Part I: Clean As You Go

When I was a teenager, there was a lot of pressure for me to finish high school and get a job. The pressure didn’t come from either of my parents, actually. It came from my uncles and cousins. In our culture, education was one of those things that you did because you had to and […]

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One Thing I Promise You: Work

I’m in Atlanta for some training before heading out to Puerto Rico to chase me some Zika Virus. As an Uber driver took me to CDC this morning, we started talking about his life story. Mr. Mohammed arrived in the United States in 2000, escaping war in Sudan as a refugee. He told me that […]

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