Lab Matters Winter 2020 - Page 30

MEMBERSHIP Aiming Upward in Marion County, Indiana By Nancy Maddox, MPH, writer When accessing the website of Indiana’s Marion County Public Health Laboratory, one of the first things an astute visitor is apt to notice is the site’s internet domain—“.org” instead of “.gov.” That’s because the laboratory’s parent agency, the Marion County Public Health Department (MCPHD), is part of the innovative Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County (HHC), a municipal entity that also comprises Eskenazi Health (a public hospital operating in partnership with the Indiana University School of Medicine), the Eskenazi Health Foundation, long term care facilities and Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services. HHC is governed by a board of trustees appointed by the mayor of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis city council and Marion County commissioners. Both the public health laboratory and HHC are dedicated to helping the county’s 950,000 residents achieve “an optimal level of wellness”—an ambitious goal in Indiana’s most populous jurisdiction, encompassing both urban Indianapolis (the state capital), suburban populations and several small cities, such as Speedway, Southport, Beech Grove and Lawrence. The Marion County Public Health Laboratory—the largest county lab in Indiana—oversees CLIA-waived testing in county WIC clinics and other public health sites, and operates two satellite laboratories: one at Bell Flower Clinic, a public clinic providing HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) services in downtown Indianapolis, and another at Action Health Center, MCPHD’s adolescent and family health clinic, located just north of downtown Indianapolis. While the laboratory’s bread-and-butter work focuses on water quality and priority illnesses, it also supports investigations of illness among the thousands of tourists drawn to the area for the Indianapolis 500 auto-racing competition and other local attractions, and collaborates with the nearby Indiana State Department of Health Laboratories on specialized investigations. 28 LAB MATTERS Winter 2020 Microtechnologist Archie Campbell analyzes foreign material under the microscope. Photo: Marion County PHL Looking ahead, the laboratory has two related goals: to ascend from its basement digs, where the laboratory has been housed for almost 30 years and to update and enlarge its test menu. Facility The Marion County Public Health Laboratory occupies just under 10,000 square feet of the basement of the Hasbrook Building, located northeast of downtown Indianapolis in the so-called Central City or Central Corridor. The eight-story, glass and concrete building— home to the laboratory since 1991—sits on an HHC campus and also houses the Eskenazi server team and most MCPHD program offices. The campus, said Michael Davis, PhD, director of the public health laboratory, “is surrounded by neighborhoods on all sides, plus a small strip mall and several public schools nearby. Our building is the tallest thing around here; it’s easy to find us.” Director Davis was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and remained in The Motor City while earning BS and PhD degrees from Wayne State University—the former in chemistry, the latter in biomedical sciences with a focus on cancer research. After completing his schooling, he spent two years at the National Institutes of Health, working on adeno-associated viruses, a gene therapy vector, and then returned to his home state to study hepatitis C virus at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “At that point,” said David, “I was pretty much burned out on viral research, and I switched over to public health. I don’t regret it.” Davis became the deputy director of the Detroit Public Health Laboratory and remained there 11 years, until 2010, when Detroit declared bankruptcy and the laboratory closed. Left “in the lurch,” Davis found his next position at the Alabama Public Health Laboratory, where he also served as deputy director. “I stayed there two years,” he said. “I realized I and [Alabama PHL Director Sharon Massingale] are basically the same age, so I would always be deputy director.” Thus, Davis decamped to Georgia to direct the Georgia Public Health Laboratory’s satellite laboratory in Waycross—a state- of-the-art BSL-4 facility built to support PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org