Contagious Conversations: Tomorrow’s Public Health Professionals


As we emerge from the COVID public health emergency, it is a critical time to think about the future of public health. The next generation of public health workers will be charged with leading through the public health challenges that lie ahead. 

In the latest episode of our Contagious Conversations podcast, I was pleased to speak with Anna Heilers and Dr. Antoine Denis, two public health students who are preparing to meet the public health challenges of tomorrow. Anna is currently an MPH candidate at the Indiana University – Purdue University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. She works at the Indiana State Department of Health as a COVID-19 Epidemiologist 1 on the CDC reporting team, and she has also served as Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Division Graduate Governor Summer Intern at the Department of Health. Antoine is currently an MPH student at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. In 2022, he launched an effort to improve health safety in New York City by strengthening a network of hand sanitation stations in subway stations and other transportation nodes around the city.

As he nears completion of his MPH studies, Antoine is looking ahead to the public health challenges of the future. 

“At the end of the day, I think it's all about being more and more creative, innovative, open to collaboration,” Antoine said. “There's so much potential for public health work to really make a difference out there in people's lives, but we need to be willing to really roll up our sleeves and get to work because the best, but also I think the worst, is yet to come.”

An epidemiologist at the Indiana State Department of Health, Anna’s work and schooling have also shaped her view on the role that public health plays in creating a healthier society, as well as to the challenges that exist.  

“I think that with Covid we all saw the ease at which misinformation can spread, and then once it's out there, it can be very difficult to manage,” Anna said. “With mistrust in government–and there's something always out there in the world that contradicts us–it can be really difficult to make a case that people are willing to listen to.”

It was a pleasure to speak with Anna and Antoine–two public health students who are already engaged in the work of public health, with an eye to the future. I encourage everyone to tune in to this episode to hear more about their stories.

Judy Monroe
Judy Monroe, MD, is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.