Descriptive Epi

Name: Mona Wenger

Position: District 2 Field Epidemiologist

Education: Master of Science in Community Health

How did you get started in Public Health?

I have always been interested in the medical field and having a family. I came from a large Italian/German family with five brothers and five sisters. I remember my dad having to work three jobs to support us.

After high school graduation, I joined the United States Navy as a hospital corpsman. I met my husband Ken while in the Navy.  After leaving the service, I entered the nursing program at Ball State University. After having trouble finding suitable child care, I chose to leave nursing and remain at home to care for our three children.

I have always loved the community where I grew up.  As we reared our family in my hometown, Ken and I watched the community physically deteriorate (e.g., empty buildings with broken windows).  Decreasing job opportunities, alcohol and drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and labeling of people based on where they lived became real problems. There is an objective that I utilize often in public health: a community is not healthy unless every individual in the community is healthy (Healthy People, 2010).

Ken died unexpectedly 14 years later at age 41 from a heart attack after outpatient knee surgery. Faced with the need to provide for our family, I returned to school. I had been out of the nursing field too long to utilize my credits, so I graduated with a Bachelor of General Studies degree.

My desire to help my family and friends drew me into the field of Community Health. I was accepted for an internship in the Health Science Department at Ball State University while earning a Masters of Science Degree in Community Health Education.  My internship included working with the HIV/STD Program at the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). I enjoyed working in public health but, unfortunately, my community had no monetary resources to hire me as a health educator. I accepted a position with the ISDH Perinatal Hepatitis B Program and moved to St. Joseph County.

The ISDH District 2 Field Epidemiologist position then became available. This position has provided me the opportunity to put into practice all I have learned in the nursing and health education fields. I also try to utilize the knowledge I have acquired to assist my hometown community in public health issues.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Knowing that my job creates a positive health outcome for the population I serve.

What is a typical day like for you?

The day often begins with general work issues, such as requests for guidance on public health issues from the District 2 local health departments and hospitals and research requests on communicable diseases. Usually the week does not end without being notified of a possible foodborne illness, vaccine preventable disease, or other communicable disease event.

What is your ideal vacation?

I love hanging out with my family and friends at any location WITHOUT my Blackberry.

What is your favorite hobby?