Public Health Thank You Day: Thoughts From ASTHO Leadership

November 19, 2021 | ASTHO Staff

Every year on Nov. 22, ASTHO—and countless other agencies and organizations worldwide—take a moment to acknowledge the public health workforce on Public Health Thank You Day. Like so many other days of recognition, it has become a blip on our yearly calendar. And, simply put, that’s just not enough. This year, ASTHO leadership took pen to paper to share some of our feelings, fears, and—yes, our thanks—for everything the public health workforce has always done to protect us.

Meredith Allen, vice president, health security

Meredith AllenAs we hopefully begin our transition into a new phase of the COVID pandemic that includes lower numbers of hospitalizations and increased availability of vaccines to adults and our kids five years of age and above, I would like to say thank you to everyone working in public health. The work you have done in the last year has allowed families to reconnect with each other, our kids to return to school, and people to get back to work. I would like to thank you for the extra hours you have spent developing guidance to keep our loved ones healthy, the evenings and weekends spent running mass vaccination clinics, and the endless phone calls you have answered from the concerned and sometimes angry public. Through wave after wave of COVID-19 surges, you have adjusted to meet the challenges of the day and continued to work towards the goal of keeping us all safe and healthy. Thank you for the long nights, the missed vacations, and your time that you’d normally spend with your families and friends. We value your dedication and expertise coupled with your sense of duty to keep us healthy. Thank you public health workers!

Zarnaaz Bashir, deputy chief executive officer

Zarnaaz BashirThank you to all the public health heroes who protect and promote our health every day! Wear your public health badge with pride. From ensuring that our water is clean and educating our communities about healthy lifestyles, to preventing disease outbreaks and spread of infectious diseases, you are there working bravely and tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy. These last 20+ months have been especially tough, but your strength and courage will always be remembered and is a testament to your heroic nature. Thank you for the lives you've saved. The work that you do impacts every aspect of our lives and for that we are forever grateful!

Jim Blumenstock, senior vice president, pandemic response and recovery

Jim BlumenstockOver the span of approximately five decades, I have witnessed countless demonstrations of unfaltering service to community by so many who proudly call themselves public health professionals. Regardless of whether it’s a daily activity or public health crisis, I know that your skilled and decisive actions reduced illness, injury, and even death. How many other professions carry such a daunting responsibly—and such an awesome opportunity to make a difference! Your commitment, compassion, and competence have and will continue to make a positive impact on the wellbeing of so many. Everyone knows how hard the last two years have been in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please take comfort in knowing that those long, hard hours and sacrifices have led to tremendous accomplishment against seemingly insurmountable odds. Your courage and commitment will not be overlooked in the annals of history nor in the hearts of those you touched and helped. For this, I thank you.

Karl Ensign, vice president, territorial support

Karl EnsignThe last two years have not been easy for any of us, but it has been particularly challenging for state and territorial public health leaders and their workforce. Despite these challenges, we have shown resiliency, innovation, and success—and this has been accomplished amid an often overly-politicized policy environment. Thank you for leading, inspiring, and working tirelessly! I am so grateful to work with you during this historic time, which may well be the most critical moment in public health.

Michael Fraser, chief executive officer

Michael FraserPublic health professionals have been through a lot with COVID-19, and on this particular Public Health Thank You Day the message is more salient than ever. Public health professionals are often either invisible or behind the scenes, so bringing them to the front of the stage is important. They need to hear how appreciated they are for this work—so let’s say thanks to people who have dedicated their professional careers to improving the health of our nation. To us, there is no greater good.


Carolyn Mullen, senior vice president, government affairs and public relations

Carolyn MullenGratitude for Public Health
Our health is sacred.
You protected humanity.
We owe you our lives.

Lindsey Myers, vice president, social and behavior health

Lindsey MyersThe public health workforce has always worked tirelessly to protect the health and safety of our communities. Our field attracts dedicated, compassionate, selfless people who care more about achieving positive health outcomes than the money or recognition they receive in exchange for the countless hours they spend helping create environments where we can all thrive. So, it was no surprise how the public health workforce came together to address the pandemic. The achievements over the past year and a half have been nothing short of spectacular. From the quick deployment of emergency preparedness plans to public health practitioners jumping in to help outside their fields of expertise, to the rapid development and deployment of vaccines, the public health workforce has shown up in big and small ways. We are all better for it. I am grateful for each public health practitioner who has given their all, whether directly to the response or maintaining the other essential core public health functions during the pandemic. Public health is so foundational that it often goes unnoticed, but public health workers are the front line—and I am so thankful that you are. You make a difference. Every day. Thank you!

Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer

Marcus PlesciaIt has been a tough period for public health and for our society lately, but I continue to be encouraged by the people who I have the good fortune of working with. The team at ASTHO has a commitment to social justice, equity, and empathy that I have rarely encountered in my career. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been awful, it has created some important opportunities for public health, and I look forward to working with all of you going forward.


Danny Staley, senior vice president, public health practice and programs

Danny StaleyThank you, Public Health family,
For the countless hours of work without notice.
Thank you for dedication to the human cause and improvement of life.
Thank you for digesting volumes of data and giving sound lifesaving advice.
Most of all, thank you for doing what people say cannot be done.

Amber Williams, senior vice president, leadership and organizational performance

Amber WilliamsWhen I think of the gratitude I have for the public health workforce, I think of these words from Shakespeare: “I can no other answer make, but, thanks, And thanks, and ever thanks.” It is hard to truly express how appreciative I am for your dedication and service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Your work has been tireless, and these words will never be enough to express the admiration, respect, and gratitude I feel for each of you.