The state’s top doctor is going to retire this fall.
After 24 years at the Iowa Department of Public Health of reminding to get our flu shots, put on bug spray to keep away mosquitoes, and remember that basic hand washing prevents the spread of disease — State Epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk is retiring in September.
Doctor Quinlisk came to Iowa after working with the Oklahoma Health Department and some time with the CDC. Quinlisk says she let her boss know about two years ago that she wanted to retire and helped in the selection of Doctor Caitlyn Pedati.
“What we’re doing right is I’m sort of overlapping with her, putting my two cents in and showing her the ropes, and she is catching on really quickly,”Quinlisk says. “And so then in September I’ll retire, but I’m going to be around Des Moines and I have some projects that I will continue to work on — one of them is the prevention of dementia
Doctor Quinlisk, who is 63, says working in the state has made an impression on her.
“I cannot imagine having a better place to work and more wonderful people to work — and that includes all of the media too,” Quinlisk says. “It’s been a great place to work and that’s one of the reasons I don’t plan on leaving Iowa, even once I retire.” The technology has changed quite a bit since she first took over the job.
“There weren’t cellphones when I started, there weren’t really computers — not one on every desk — there were few computers,” Quinlisk says. “We were still using, when we talked about slides. we were truly even still talking about having the film negative kinds of things that you put unbetween to pieces of paper and you put in a carousel to project up on a screen. And I had a Dictaphone when I started so I could dictate letters.”
While there are still disease outbreaks, Quinlisk says the health of Iowans has improved. “When I first started it seems like we had lots of large outbreaks and those really have gone down. I think there’s a lot to be said for various people working to make food safe. And that’s not just public health — but the restaurants and the industry etcetera,” she explains. “And I think another thing is just there are a lot few people who smoke. And that has not only taken down the number of smokers, but the heart attacks and strokes and lung cancers and all of that. So that’s been a great achievement.”
Quinlisk’s replacement, Doctor Pedati, comes to Iowa from Nebraska where she was an epidemiologist with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.