Mary Kate Weber is CDC’s Employee of the Month for November!

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Mary Kate Weber is CDC’s Employee of the Month for November!
  Bridging Two Roles  November 26, 2013 Posted in: Awards/Kudos/EOM, Inside Story  Mary Kate Weber, MPH.  Photo by James Gathany   Mary Kate Weber, MPH, a public health analyst at the  National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), successfully serves in dual roles, making her the November Employee of the Month. “Mary Kate is a can do, creative person who is always willing to lend a hand in analyzing challenging issues,” said Coleen Boyle, PhD, MS hyg, director of NCBDDD. “Her calm approach puts others at ease and makes her a vital asset to our work in ensuring healthier pregnancies.”  Weber serves as a subject matter expert on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) prevention and as a policy lead, coordinating responses to multiple requests from HHS, CDC and outside entities. She also has been intimately engaged in moving specific program activities forward in two areas: incorporating alcohol screening and  brief intervention (ASBI) as a key strategy to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancy, and expanding the knowledge base on what women know about the effects of alcohol on the developing fetus and how to better message risks of drinking while pregnant or trying to get  pregnant. “Ma ry Kate is truly a remarkable individual  –   she is the quintessential team player. I am continually amazed at the sheer volume of work she can get done,” said her supervisor, Joe Sniezek, MD, MPH, chief, Prevention Research Branch (PRB). “With the quality o f the work, and her positive attitude when deadlines and tempers are short, she is an asset to the branch, the division and the center.”  During the past two years, Weber has become a trusted advisor to the FAS Prevention Team and to the team lead. Her creative leadership has been instrumental in expanding the breadth of the team’s work in the primary  prevention of FASDs. Working with the team lead, other experts on the team, the branch and division, she facilitated the development of a strategy to expand the reach of ASBI. Prior to 2010, the team focused much of its efforts on the development and implementation of CHOICES (Changing High Risk Alcohol Use and Increasing Contraception Effectiveness Study), an intervention that aims to reduce the risk of alcohol-exposed pregnancy among non-pregnant women drinking at risky levels and not using contraception effectively or consistently. The expanded focus includes alcohol screening and brief intervention as another effective intervention for all individuals, including women of reproductive age. Weber played a key role in conceptualizing ways to increase the demand for ASBI, helped to organize a meeting of large employers and insurance companies, co-developed a position statement making the case for ASBI, and provided critical input into an ASBI planning and implementation guide for primary care providers. “The progress made to date would not have been possible without the dedicated work and crucial insights provided  by Mary Kate. Her ability to quickly grasp the essence of a task at hand, develop a way forward and realize a cogent response or approach is truly admirable,” said Sniezek. “Her excellent communication skills, coupled with her clear thinking and knowledge of FASDs have been central to the team’s ability to  articulate the importance of  broadening CDC’s FASD prevention efforts to include  both alcohol SBI and CHOICES as options for women, and promoting delivery of ASBI among all individuals in  primary care settings.”   Mary Kate Weber, fourth on the front row, with her family back in Philadelphia in 2001. Weber has also co-led research efforts to better understand what women know and believe about alcohol use in pregnancy to help shape future prevention messages and determine how to get these messages out to all women of childbearing age. Results from this work were published in the American Journal of Health Education in July 2013 and are being used to inform the development of CDC materials on alcohol use during  pregnancy. In addition, Weber manages policy-related requests for PRB’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program which works to improve early identification of children with autism and other developmental disabilities. This has   been a great opportunity for her to learn more about PRB’s efforts to educate pa rents, early educators, and healthcare providers on the importance of monitoring child developmental milestones. “Mary Kate is a consummate team player. Even though she’s not officially  part of our organizational unit, she is a member of our team,” said Becky Wolf, MA, team lead for “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” “She has made it her business to learn ours, and as a result, she manages our policy issues from the inside out, instead of outside looking in. She makes tremendous contributions, and it’s a real pl easure working with her!”   “Mary Kate is rock solid. She is insightful, thoughtful and incredibly dependable. She understands the complexities of public health at the local state and national levels like no other person I have met  —  and she has the ability (and takes the time) to think and explain how things are interconnected,” said Aliki Pappas Weakland, MPH, MSW, public health analyst. “And, on a personal note, she is a great friend and I thoroughly enjoy her unassuming, but fabulous sense of humor! Mary Kate is one of the biggest reasons why I like coming to work every day.”   “Mary Kate is just the perfect colleague. She is intellectually curious, working to understand how all the internal and external pieces fit together,” Sniezek said.   “She is great about identifying opportunities to increase our efficiency and impact. She always does more than expected. No drama, just competence.” “Mary Kate is smart, capable and kind,” said Nancy Cheal, PhD, RN, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prevention team lead. “She epitomizes the best qualities and skills we yearn to find in colleagues and hope to reflect in our own work.”  Weber said the people who work at CDC and the partners and colleagues she has met in the field of public health and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is what she likes most about her work. “I am constantly impressed by the level of commitment and passion for the work that CDC staff have. I have learned so much during my time here and have had the opportunity to work with amazing  people,” she said. “I have also  had the great privilege of working with many people  —  researchers, clinicians, educators, and families  —  who are working every day to  prevent FASDs and to support families and individuals living with FASDs.”  In her time away from CDC, Weber said she and her husband John find new and different things to do in and around Atlanta. “There’s always a festival or two happening, walks on the Atlanta Beltline, and great restaurants. We like to travel and have gone on wonderful trips to Washington, British Columbia, Cape Cod, and San Francisco. Ireland is next on our list,” she said. “I also love a great book. We are fortunate there is a strong literary community in Atlanta. I have enjoyed attending the Decatur Book Festival since it started; it is a great  place to meet authors, find new books to read, and just celebrate with others who love to read. I have a growing collection of graphic novels. A recent favorite of mine is March by Rep. John Lewis  –   a memoir of this civil rights leader in a visual format.”  A native of Philadelphia, PA, Weber attended Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls. One of eight siblings with four older brothers, Weber said her family keeps her grounded and their presence in her life reminds her that maintaining a sense of balance is important. “Family always came first for my parents, before anything else,” she said.  She might also have learned how to multi-task from her  parents, Bill and Mary McCaffrey. “My mom and dad never cease to amaze me. They had to juggle the responsibilities that go along with raising eight children. They always found great ways to entertain us,” Weber said. “My mom would gather us all up for day trips on the subway to downtown Philly to visit the historical sites and waterfront.” Weber said. Her father was an avid stamp collector and she said she learned a lot of history sharing this interest with him. He also loved classic movies and radio programs, and performed in local theater  productions, always sharing his favorite things with the family. Weber earned a BA in psychology with a minor in social work from LaSalle University, Philadelphia, and holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health (UIC SPH). “I  began my government career early on in the Federal Junior Fellowship Program at the Navy Aviation Supply Office (NASO) in Philadelphia, working summers and holiday breaks. I became a full-time education specialist after graduating from LaSalle,” Weber said. “I managed the NASO Learning Center which offered a wide range of courses from computer basics to supervisory training.”  She also worked at UIC SPH as a conference coordinator for the HHS Regions V and VII Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Leadership Conference for four years, and then as a project manager for the MCH Enhanced Analytical Skills Program at UIC SPH. Her UIC colleagues and professors encouraged her to continue her education. “Working at UIC was my first introduction to  public health and I learned a great deal about the challenges facing state and local MCH programs both from a programmatic and analytic perspective,” Weber said. Mary Kate and John Weber  Weber has been married to her husband John for 22 years. It was his educational and career aspirations that brought her to Georgia and ultimately to CDC. “When my husband decided to pursue work on his PhD in education, we moved from Chicago to Athens, GA for him to attend the University of Georgia. I had just received my MPH from UIC and was eag er to put it to good use,” she said. “I decided to apply to CDC’s new Public Health Prevention Service (PHPS, started in 1997) and was accepted into the class of 1998.”PHPS provided opportunities for Weber to sharpen her public health skills through federal and local public health experiences, and she became part of a growing PHPS network too. The service is now well established and many PHPS graduates are now in leadership and management positions at CDC and in the field. “My experiences, particularly thos e in the field, gave me a deeper appreciation of the challenges and rewards in local public health, and really helped shape how I work with grantees and partners today,’ she said.  As a CDC public health prevention specialist, Weber went on to work in several areas, including working as a fellow at the National Immunization Program and the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control where she  provided program, policy, and health communications support. Her two-year PHPS field assignment at the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) was focused on school health. While at CDPH, Weber co-led  planning, development, and implementation of coordinated school health programs in selected public and  private elementary schools in Chicago. “After PHPS, I took a position at the newly created National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in 2001,” Weber said. “I joined the FAS Prevention Team, and as a  behavioral scientist provided technical assistance and support in the areas of FASD prevention, communication, and policy.”   “I have hired a number of people into the CDC workforce over the years and watched them matriculate in their careers. Mary Kate is one of those people who will do excellent work but will never draw attention to themselves. As her former supervisor, I would read her self-ratings for PMAP and year after year I would try to convince her she is better than she thinks. Now she gets the spotlight and can’t deny it,” said Louise Floyd, DSN, RN, associate director of program and planning, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. As a member of the FAS Prevention Team, Weber also served as the designated federal official of the National Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect. She was a member of the FAS Prevention Team for about 10 years before taking on expanded duties as a  policy lead. “I have had the pleasure of working closely with Mary Kate for 12 years, since we both started with the FAS Prevention Team in 2001. Mary Kate’s knowledge of the field, ability to always think of the bigger picture, attention to detail, reliability, easy-going spirit, and so many more great qualities, make her the perfect colleague, said Elizabeth Dang, MPH, behavioral scientist. “We’ve worked on so many projects together over the years that we always know what each other will think and do. That’s a rare partnership that I really treasure. I am honored to have Mary Kate as a colleague, and maybe even more importantly, as a friend.”   This Inside Story   by: Rhonda K. Smith  
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