Interview: Adam Yanckowitz

When it comes to emergency operations, specifically in meeting the public health and medical needs of a community during an emergency, Essential Support Function #8 (ESF-8) is vital. There are many public health and healthcare professionals whose expertise is called upon under ESF-8.

Photo Credit: US Aid

Photo Credit: US Aid

“I would say that ESF-8 is greater than a healthcare system,” says Adam Yanckowitz, Director of Office of Emergency Operations in FDOH Broward County Health Department. As the lead agency for ESF-8 at the state-level, the Florida Department of Health coordinates preparedness efforts statewide to assure the healthcare system is ready to respond when needed.

“It is more than just hurricane planning and response,” says Yanckowitz. The Office of Emergency Operations is the leader in public health response matters and works collaboratively with local, county, state, and federal agencies.

Less than 2% of all OMP participants list ’emergency response’ as one of their areas of interest. Yet, ESF-8 is comprised of public health professionals across a variety of fields, including (but not limited to) those in environmental health, epidemiology, ambulance deployment, hazardous materials responses, laboratory response network, fatality management, special needs shelters and so much more. “ESF-8 is the mechanism and coordination,” says Yanckowitz.

Having the skills and abilities that transfer across various departments and organizations can be essential to sustaining a long-term career in public health. For mentees in the program looking to work in or collaborate with emergency operations, Yanckowitz suggests having the following necessary skill sets:

Yanckowitz recognizes the challenges that come from growing leadership expertise within an organization, which is why he believes mentorship and leadership go “hand-in-hand.” “Under the direction of the mentor, the [mentee] is given immediate access to valuable insights and past experiences,” he says. “Individuals are learning by doing and are able to practice what they are learning.”

During a time in public health when organizations and county health departments struggle to keep staff and function within smaller budgets, mentorships can be helpful developing future leaders and sustaining the efforts of public health workers. “As staff retires and attrition occurs, the transfer of knowledge from mentor to mentee is critical,” says Yanckowitz. “In addition to managing and motivating people, it’s also important that mentors help others learn, grow and become more effective in their jobs.”

A big thanks to Adam Yanckowitz for his insights. Click here to learn more about the Office of Emergency Operations.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator