Mari Gasiorowicz, M.A [Preceptor]

I’m an Epidemiologist in the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, AIDS/HIV Program. I joined DPH in 1994, initially as coordinator of the statewide HIV prevention community planning process, then as HIV prevention evaluation coordinator, and have focused on epidemiology in the last few years.

My greatest work interest is in triangulating multiple data sources and presenting the data in meaningful ways that lead to action. One of the AIDS/HIV Program’s biggest areas of emphasis in the last few years has been on addressing HIV in young African American MSM in Milwaukee County. HIV incidence and prevalence are both very high in this population. The DPH AIDS/HIV Program and City of Milwaukee Health Department invited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct an investigation in 2009. Since then, we have been working with community partners to mount a response to this situation. It is exciting to see both the level of community engagement and the amount of funding that the planning process has leveraged.

We have conducted other investigations regarding clusters of Hepatitis C and HIV in various parts of the state. I appreciate the opportunity to work with hard-working local health department staff and others who have so many different health priorities on their plates. Here our challenges are to define the cluster and then to design prevention messages that reach the population without stigmatizing those affected, especially in rural communities.

Another interest of mine is analyzing and presenting data in ways that highlight critical health disparities, including for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations. We saw in the Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 planning process the impact that the data had on elevating the goal of reducing health disparities for racial/ethnic minorities, people of lower socio-economic status, and LGBT youth and adults.

I have lived in East Africa twice. The first time was as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching secondary school French in the 1980s. From 2006-2008, my family and I lived in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. I worked on monitoring and evaluation efforts under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). My favorite part of that job was helping young, smart, eager Government of Tanzania M&E specialists to develop their M&E capacity. The main reason for taking this position was to afford my kids (now teenagers) the opportunity to live in a developing country. It’s my hope that when they turn on the shower now that they think, “Wow, we have water today!”

This is my first year as a Population Health Institute Preceptor. I enjoy the process of guiding people in challenging and fulfilling opportunities to contribute to our important work in public health. My advice? If you’re in grad school in public health and are interested in data analysis, get some SAS and GIS classes under your belt. Our work is increasingly demanding these skills.