Gentrea Hendrickson has been named as the new emergency preparedness coordinator for the Comal County Public Health Department.
Hendrickson attended Texas A&M University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology, and her master’s degree in public health, focusing on epidemiology. She then did her practicum at Dallas County Emergency Management.
Hendrickson said when she started college she wanted to study infectious diseases because she thought was it was a cool subject. However, she never took to lab work.
“I felt like it was repetitive work,” Hendrickson said. “I just wasn't seeing the fruits of my labor and I wanted to get out and talk to people and make a difference in the community.”
And so she got into public health, where she loves being on the practice side of things. It allows her to get out to speak with people, make changes toward improving people’s health and improve people’s preparedness in an emergency.
“I'm passionate about being involved with the community and passionate about preparedness, and I'm just really excited to be here,” Hendrickson said.
She has begun planning with the department on level of access to the system, critical staff and ImmTrac, Texas’ immunization registry.
Hendrickson said the department has received some direction from the Centers for Disease Control because the department is on a grant. For this coming grant cycle, the big focus is pandemic flu. Within that topic, there are a number of different the public health department needs to be able to do during an emergency.
“We decide as a jurisdiction what we need to focus on,” she said. “So for us that's what's called medical countermeasures.”
These countermeasures are called PODs, or point of dispensing/distribution. In a public health emergency like pandemic flu or anthrax, where the department needs to provide vaccines or antibiotics quickly to the community and vaccinate everyone, a POD is setup and staffed by volunteers. The public will come through the POD and receive the medication that they need.
Hendrickson said they are recruiting for their volunteer program, for which people can apply on their website. Positions include greeters who collect forms, medical personnel, volunteers who dispenses and evaluate, as well as people experienced in leadership logistics, inventory and supplies.
“So there's really space for anyone of any background to volunteer in a POD if they're interested,” she said.
For more information on volunteering or immunizations, visit www.co.comal.tx.us/Health.htm.