Heather Meador Clinical Branch Supervisor Linn County Public Health Heather Meador may have become the face and voice of COVID-19 information for Linn County, but she’s clear that she hasn’t done the work on her own. She credits collaboration with long-standing community partners and reliance on key staff — no matter how often they needed […]
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Heather Meador Clinical Branch Supervisor Linn County Public Health Heather Meador may have become the face and voice of COVID-19 information for Linn County, but she’s clear that she hasn’t done the work on her own. She credits collaboration with long-standing community partners and reliance on key staff — no matter how often they needed to pivot. “The response to this pandemic is not one person. It’s our community as a whole and we should be very proud of our community,” said Ms. Meador, BSN, RN, and clinical supervisor with Linn County Public Health. “Through years of working in different professions, it becomes more and more clear that nobody can do it all alone,” she said. “We all have specific skill sets. We all have areas where we shine and we all have areas where we need some help.” Ms. Meador led a large Incident Command Operations team during the pandemic, said Tricia Kitzmann, community health division manager for Linn County Public Health. That team included various public health branches and hospitals, clinics, care facilities and emergency management services, among other partners. “Heather was a valuable resource for local community partners within Linn County and across the state. She provided input and clarification on a weekly basis regarding COVID protocols that were extremely important in keeping our community safe and healthy,” Ms. Kitzmann said. As her staff more than doubled from 11 to 26 and her work week averaged 70 to 80 hours, Ms. Meador tackled a seemingly endless list of pandemic-related duties on top of her regular workload. They included preparing daily disease reports and operation branch agendas. Working with Kaitlin Emrich, assessment and health promotion supervisor and public information officer at Linn County Public Health, Ms. Meador developed news conference talking points, conducted Facebook Live Q&A sessions, and was interviewed by local media, Ms. Kitzmann said. “In what has certainly been the most daunting and difficult time, Heather displayed the utmost professionalism, competence, kindness and compassion,” Ms. Kitzmann said, adding that Ms. Meador is “extremely well respected” by health care professionals and others in the community. At home, her husband Scott never questioned her need to work “crazy hours.” Her college-age daughters, who came home for much of the pandemic, made sure that she had a hot meal waiting for her. “Because of my family and because of my amazing work family, it made everything possible,” Ms. Meador said. Ms. Meador’s collaborative impact on the community began long before the COVID pandemic. She spent years working with various partners. “We have amazing people here. When you can bring them all together at the table, and you have that common mission and that common purpose, you’re striving for the same goal, amazing things can happen,” she said. “Heather has an inherent ability to connect with others and make them feel welcome. She is an incredibly humble person and exemplifies the characteristics of a servant leader,” said Don Callaghan, chief of the Bureau of Immunization and Tuberculosis at the Iowa Department of Public Health. Ms. Meador grew up in the affluent Chicago suburb of Naperville, where people lived a good life. But she felt a need to share her blessings with others in the greater community. In high school, she volunteered with Hesed House, an Aurora-based organization that provides meals and shelter for the homeless. Through her church, she helped kids in the inner-city Chicago housing project Cabrini Green. Ms. Meador earned a BSN at Lewis University in Illinois before moving to Iowa and becoming an emergency room nurse “working solo on the night shift.” After stints as director of nursing for a walk-in acute care clinic and a health services case manager, she became a public health nurse. Along the way, Ms. Meador has been credited with being a role model and mentor to women. Lori Townsend, MSN, RN, said “Heather is always responsive to requests, suggestions, and inquiries even in the middle of this pandemic. If she does not know an answer she will find out and get back to me quickly.” She’s also credited with expanding care to underserved populations. She implemented Refugee Services to address the health needs of refugee populations in Linn County, expanded the health department’s HIV program and worked with local hospitals to protect newborns from whooping cough. She has had a goal of leaving her community better than she found it. “I want to be in a community that’s thriving. I want to be in a community that’s healthy, that has amazing schools and amazing businesses. To be in that community, I have to do my part,” Ms. Meador said.