PARTNER PROFILE minutes with Tara Henning
Tara Henning , PhD , is the lead for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’ s ( CDC ’ s ) Laboratory Leadership Service ( LLS ) fellowship program in the Division of Scientific Education and Development ’ s Epidemiology Workforce Branch . In addition to mentoring fellows on their career progression , she focuses on strategies to expand and improve the LLS program through productive partnerships , novel recruitment tools , and developing innovative training and experiential learning opportunities .
Henning began working with CDC in 2009 as an American Society for Microbiology ( ASM )/ CDC Infectious Disease post-doctoral fellow in the Division of HIV and AIDS Prevention ( DHAP ) Laboratory Branch , accepting a permanent position afterward . She also served as a senior microbiologist in the Division of STD Prevention ’ s Laboratory Reference and Research Branch . Henning segued to laboratory programs as a health scientist and program manager with the Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit ( ARX ) in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion . In this role , she helped launch CDC ’ s Antibiotic Resistance ( AR ) Lab Network , partnered with state and local public health laboratories to detect and monitor drug-resistant infections , led ARX ’ s initiative to build critical laboratory informatics infrastructure for AR laboratory data reporting , and was CDC ’ s liaison for the AR fellowship program .
Henning draws from her own fellowship and laboratory experiences to help enrich the professional development of LLS fellows and values the opportunity to support public health workforce development . She earned a BS in microbiology from Mississippi State University and a PhD in Microbiology , Immunology and Parasitology from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans .
What drew you to public health ?
Growing up in rural Mississippi , issues with access to care and health disparities in my small town were clear to me . Even as a teenager , I wanted to support the health of my community and planned to pursue a career in medicine . But as I read Richard Preston ’ s book The Hot Zone for one of my undergraduate microbiology courses , I was fascinated by the work of the scientists — I had visions of traipsing through jungles on the search for hemorrhagic viruses . I also became interested in the work of the CDC — so much so that my viewpoints on public health and my career pivoted , and I planned for graduate school with the intent of one day working as a CDC laboratory scientist . While my current work doesn ’ t directly target the same public health issues I noticed growing up , I am drawn to public health programs and laboratory science that support the public health workforce and its capacity to address those issues .
What is the mission and intent of the Laboratory Leadership Service ?
CDC ’ s Laboratory Leadership Service
( LLS ) was launched in 2015 as part of the agency ’ s initiative to strengthen and improve laboratory safety , quality practices and develop future public health laboratory leaders through experiential and competency-based training . LLS fellows are PhD laboratory scientists who train under experienced mentors and scientists for two years while serving in a CDC or partnering state or local public health laboratory . LLS is based on competencies developed in collaboration between CDC and APHL and deemed critical for leadership in the public health laboratory .
Since its inception , the objectives and needs of our program have evolved . While LLS continues to deliver a robust curriculum for laboratory safety and quality , it also recognizes a need for scientific laboratory leaders in the public health workforce . We are now focusing on new and innovative opportunities for didactic and experiential leadership training in advanced communications , hands-on experience in laboratory operations management , and service alongside experts in state and local public health labs . Leveraging partnerships is key to increasing and enriching fellows ’ learning and leadership opportunities . As LLS continues to grow , the program will remain true to its core mission to develop future public health laboratory leaders who demonstrate scientific excellence through leadership and embody high standards of laboratory quality and safety , and service .
How is LLS unique to public health laboratory science and practice ? To workforce and leadership development ?
LLS is a one-of-a-kind fellowship opportunity that bridges laboratory science and public health to deliver training in the competences required to lead a public health laboratory or program . LLS provides unparalleled opportunities for career growth and progression through research that directly translates to a public health action . LLS fellows gain experience leading risk assessments and laboratory quality improvement projects while developing effective communication and leadership skills . With the emphasis on laboratory quality and safety , few opportunities exist elsewhere to develop such a skilled level of experience in an applied context .
Field experiences are part of the LLS program ’ s unique ability to challenge and build a fellow ’ s scientific , strategic thinking and leadership skills . In the current state of pandemic operations , LLS fellows have deployed to the field and assumed multiple roles in CDC ’ s
10 LAB MATTERS Fall 2020