On April 3, Danielle Stanek, DVM, joined a group of professionals as the 2019 Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health in a ceremony at the USF College of Public Health.
Initiated by USF in 1988, nominations are solicited from public health practitioners across the state. The COPH bestows the award each year to a woman whose career accomplishments and leadership contribute significantly to the field of public health in Florida.
“People who wrote in support of her nomination all spoke of her approachability, availability around the clock, her incredible work ethic and her commitment to the health and safety of the public,” said Dr. Donna Petersen, dean of the COPH and a senior associate vice president of USF Health. “I present to you a truly great public health hero.”
With more than 30 years of working with zoonotic diseases and veterinary medicine, Stanek currently serves as the state public health veterinarian within the Florida Department of Health (FDOH).
Stanek earned a bachelor of science in microbiology from University of Florida (UF) and her doctorate of veterinary medicine from UF College of Veterinary Medicine. She has experience with mixed and small animal veterinary practices, human and veterinary diagnostics at Organon Teknika, Washington State and Cornell Universities, and avian wildlife disease investigations in Florida.
Previously, her work with agents having negative impacts on both animals and people led her to a position as medical epidemiologist with the Zoonotic and Vectorborne Disease Program at the FDOH, where she worked with endemic and emerging zoonotic disease issues ranging from rabies, brucellosis and novel influenzas to dengue, babesiosis and chikungunya.
“Among those of us who work in the field as county epidemiologists within the FDOH, Dr. Stanek’s expertise and accessibility is particularly appreciated. Despite the other demands placed on her, she is famous for being readily available for consultation on whatever unique cases that we may be investigating, ranging from those that involve possible rabies exposure from an exotic animal, to diseases stemming from an arthropod bite following foreign travel,” said Dr. Gregory Danyluk, epidemiology program manager for the FDOH in Polk County.
Before her role with the FDOH, she worked with the state wildlife agency during which she oversaw avian mortality investigations during active hurricane seasons.
Stanek was also one of the key players in Florida’s 2016 Zika response through her expertise, work ethic, guidance development and collaborations with critical internal and external partners.
“Dr. Stanek’s contributions to the FDOH’s successful response to the Zika virus outbreak in Florida cannot be overstated. Her leadership, scientific expertise, tireless work ethic, innovative ideas, supervision of staff and activities, guidance development and invaluable collaborations with critical internal and external partners were keys to our success,” said Dr. Russell Eggert, medical executive director at the FDOH. “Because of her efforts, national recognition and distinction was brought to the FDOH for its effective response to this challenging and serious novel public health threat.”
In recent years, Stanek has been focusing her efforts on rabies prevention messaging and her interactions with other partner state agencies, such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Here in Polk County we’ve noticed a nearly 50 percent increase in the amount of rabies post-exposure prophylaxis being administered,” Danyluk said. “I would like to think Stanek played a role in that increase, whether directly or indirectly.”
“I am both honored and humbled to receive this prestigious public health award, I would like to honor and thank all the many public health practitioners who do hard work in the field day after day.” Stanek said. “The care and consideration for others makes public health practitioners the most positive and inspiring group of people that I have ever worked with and I am so proud to be part of the public health community.”
Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health