March 2015 Alumni Spotlight
March Alumni Spotlight with Saira Qureshi (MPA ’12)
As an employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Saira Qureshi (MPA ’12) is intimately aware of just how critical the federal government’s role in emergency preparedness is. We speak about her journey from Baruch College to the CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS, her current projects, and what it’s like to work at a government agency tasked with the monumental challenge of subduing the deadliest Ebola outbreak in many years.
What aspects of the School of Public Affairs’ National Urban Fellows program helped you launch and sustain your career as a federal employee at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?
My time at Baruch College had a profound impact on my professional and personal life.Each of my courses provided me with a strong academic foundation in public administration. From using various budget tools, to creating logic models or evaluating public policy, the skills I gained from my courses are put to use every day.Through my cohort and the rigorous leadership training through the National Urban Fellows program I was able to gain unique leadership skills, which shaped my approach to successful professional and personal relationship building. After graduating, I entered the workforce as a more dynamic leader with experience in public policy decision-making, prepared to make a difference.
After graduating from the School of Public Affairs in 2012, I began my career as a federal employee through the elite Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF).I’m currently working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the Division of Global HIV/AIDS.The Division of Global HIV/AIDS (DGHA) is a key implementer of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Through my time at CDC, I’ve been able to work in the areas of policy, planning, and strategic communication, and served as the principal headquarters liaison for CDC offices and contacts in West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean region. In 2014, I completed the PMF program and was selected as CDC’s PMF of the year.
What has life at the CDC been like since the most recent outbreak of the Ebola virus?
Busy! Working in global health, most of my colleagues have provided Ebola outbreak assistance in one way or another in the past 6 months or so. Some of my friends worked as health communicators, crafting culturally specific messages about how Ebola is spread. Other friends have assisted in contact tracing and are following up with people who may have been exposed to the virus. While some colleagues stayed in Atlanta and assisted CDC’s Emergency Operations Center with the extensive coordination required to respond to an outbreak of this magnitude.It’s inspiring to see so many co-workers answer the call to action and step up to volunteer their skills and talents.
What are some of the most interesting facets of your role in the CDC’s division of Global HIV/AIDS (DGHA)?
Launched in 2003 by President George W. Bush with strong bipartisan support from the U.S. Congress, and strengthened significantly by President Obama, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is America’s commitment to fighting the global AIDS epidemic. PEPFAR is coordinated by the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and implemented by various federal agencies, including CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS. One of the strengths and unique aspects of PEPFAR is its interagency approach, which maximizes each implementing agencies strength and expertise in a particular area. Working under PEPFAR, not only do I get to experience CDC culture, but through the interagency space, I’m able to work with and learn from other federal agency colleagues both in the US and around the world. It’s been eye-opening to see how other agencies frame their strategies and approach to our work.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working with PEPFAR’s Interagency Collaborative for Program Improvement in Washington, D.C. The Interagency Collaborative for Program Improvement (ICPI) was announced by Secretary Kerry during PEPFAR’s Annual Meeting in Durban, South Africa in June 2014. The ICPI has brought together staff from PEPFAR’s interagency partners under one roof to analyze data, improve quality of services and save more lives. Specifically, the Interagency Collaborative will improve partner-and site-level quality and results; ensure quality improvement; and use results and expenditure analyses to significantly increase the impact of every PEPFAR dollar.I’ve been working on stakeholder engagement, strategic communications and operations for ICPI.