For more than 20 years, Melissa Smith has been involved in health care. Starting as a medical assistant, before becoming a licensed practical nurse, and later, a registered nurse, Smith is now the new Mitchell County Public Health administrator. Smith, who lives on a dairy farm south of Adams, Minnesota, took over the duties on Dec. 4.
“I’m a registered nurse with a passion for public heath nursing,” said Smith, who’s spent the last five and a half years teaching.
Smith’s passion for public health was sparked, in part, by Dr. Pat Thompson, while Smith was studying at Winona State University.
“She was a great instructor who really cared about public health,” said Smith. “In addition, I had some things occur with my youngest son who suffered a serious illness for an extended period of time and was hospitalized at St. Mary’s.”
That illness was E-coli and HUS, or hemokydic uremic syndrom, which effects the kidneys. During the time of her son’s illness, she worked closely with the state epidemiologist.
Her job as administrator includes managing the public health and home health for Mitchell County. While home health involves providing care to clients in their homes, including personal care services, skilled nurses and homemaking, the public health aspects involve serving all of Mitchell County.
“The staff has all been very inviting,” said Smith. “The biggest challenge so far is learning Iowa rules and regulations. I taught in Minnesota, and prior to that was a home care director, which is similar, but different to the job I have now. For one, the agency was much smaller, and secondly, it didn’t have public health. I’m really excited about the public health aspect of this job.”
Because of her keen interest in public health, Smith is also taking classes at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. With her new job has also come a new set of goals for the things she would like to see take place in Mitchell County.
“My short term goals are to get too know and engage with the staff and community and to maintain the high quality services the staff have been providing,” said Smith. “But my long-term goals are to really get into the public health side of the agency with Osage and the surrounding communities of Mitchell County and be more active from a public standpoint.”
In order to get more active and achieve her goals, Smith has plans to apply for grants and establish some of the programs that are available though grant funding from the Iowa Department of Health, including a community wide substance abuse coalition, emergency preparedness, and immunization promotion.
“Public health is very interesting to me,” said Smith. “And we will get these programs up and running.”