Lab Matters Fall 2018 | Page 34

MEMBERSHIP Fairfax County Health Department Laboratory: Serving the National Capital Area by Nancy Maddox, MPH, writer redbrick edifice is located in the City of Fairfax, adjacent to a health department clinic and the City of Fairfax Police Department. The highly secure facility provides 10,000 square feet of operational space, including a full BSL-3 suite with three isolation rooms and a three-room molecular testing suite. Director FCHDL staff. Front row (from l to r:) Huy Tran, Sara Sharif, Romina Wright, Whitney Owens, Emma Levings, Chip Hill. Back row (from l to r:) Fernando Valdes, Mary Louise Kolodziej, Patti Dawson, Barbara Beatty, Deborah Severson, Arelis Piscitelli. Photo: FCHDL Virginia’s lone local public health laboratory—the Fairfax County Health Department Laboratory (FCHDL)—sits directly across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, and serves a diverse population drawn from across the globe. Since the laboratory’s founding in the 1970s, the county has grown from a quiet DC suburb to a vibrant, populous area with urban centers of its own. Today, it is the single largest county in the National Capital Region, with a median household income more than double the national average and a population of 1.1 million people, almost a third of whom are immigrants. While the federal government has a notable presence in the jurisdiction— which is home to the Central Intelligence Agency, National Counterterrorism Center and other US agencies and offices—it also hosts the headquarters of nine Fortune 500 companies, ranging from Northrop Grumman to Freddie Mac. The combination of high-profile employers, dense urban areas, a diverse, well-traveled population and over 23,000 acres of parkland translates into steady work for FCHDL. The laboratory supports 32 LAB MATTERS Fall 2018 health department efforts to respond to myriad public health threats, including infectious disease outbreaks, bioterrorism, environmental health hazards, foodborne illness and natural disasters. It also provides medical testing on behalf of the county’s five public health clinics, screens for drugs of abuse, conducts research and assists neighboring jurisdictions, upon request. FCHDL is an advanced sentinel laboratory in the national Laboratory Response Network for biological pathogens and is the only Virginia public health laboratory offering services to identify fecal parasites. In addition to Fairfax County, the laboratory provides services and support to the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, the towns of Herndon, Clifton and Vienna, and a number of surrounding counties. Facility Since 2010, FCHDL has been housed in a renovated, 1950s-era building that originally served as an elementary school and today holds Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold- level certification for its sustainability and energy-efficiency. The single-story, Director Deborah Severson, MT(ASCP) was born and raised in Steubenville, Ohio, and earned her degree in medical technology from West Liberty University in West Virginia. Following graduation and ASCP Board Certification as a Medical Technologist, Severson returned to her hometown and began her career as a bench technologist at the Ohio Valley Hospital, where she was later promoted to supervisor of the microbiology laboratory. After meeting her husband while on a ski trip, Severson joined him in Libertyville, Illinois, where she worked at the North Chicago Veterans Administration Hospital. Following a brief stay in Rhode Island, the family relocated to tiny Pearisburg, Virginia, where Severson took time off to raise her children while co-owning and operating a small catering business. Working with the local health department to set up her catering business sparked her interest in working in public health. In 2000 she and her family moved to Fairfax County, where, in 2002, Severson accepted a job as a public health laboratory technologist in the FCHDL environmental laboratory. From that position, she advanced to environmental laboratory supervisor, and then, in 2012, to FCHDL director. Staff In addition to Severson, full time laboratory staff include eight level-one public health laboratory scientists, two level-two public health laboratory scientists, two laboratory supervisors (level-three scientists), a laboratory information management system manager, two administrative assistants PublicHealthLabs @APHL