Making an Impact in Emergency Response and Federal Service
Kelly Bennett, a 2010 graduate of the Master of Public Health, Health Promotion program at OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, now serves as a Division Director, Operational and Data Analytics for the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Bennett recently received two of the highest awards given in HHS; the 2023 HHS Secretary’s Commendation for Exceptional Service and Leadership during the Public Health Emergency phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the 2023 Hubert H. Humphrey Award for Service to America. These awards acknowledge the significant contributions and leadership of an individual to the health and safety of our country through dedication to public service.
I am currently serving as the Operational and Data Analytics Division Director within the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). With a career spanning over 12 years within this administration, my role involves leading a dynamic team of data analysts, IT program managers, IT specialists, and data scientists. Our primary responsibility is to generate critical reports and analyses for senior-level decision-makers, including the heads of agencies, the HHS Secretary, and the White House.
Our work has been significantly focused on addressing two major challenges in recent years: COVID-19 and MPOX. Additionally, we provide analytical support for natural disasters where federal resources need to be deployed swiftly and effectively.
One of the most memorable projects I’ve been involved in was the at-home COVID-19 test kit delivery in collaboration with the U.S. Postal Service. My team played a pivotal role in providing the essential data and analytics necessary for the successful implementation of this program. We were tasked with the incredible challenge of setting up a system to deliver test kits to people’s homes within a month’s time. This included finding test kits, establishing a public ordering system, and ensuring swift delivery. It was an intense and highly time-sensitive initiative, but its success has paved the way for future models on how to deliver critical products to homes efficiently through the established infrastructure of mail delivery.
What do you like about your job?
What I find most exciting about my job is that every day brings a unique set of challenges. Working in emergency response, we often deal with incomplete and messy information, and our task is to make sense of it so that critical decisions can be data-driven. While it can be highly demanding, these are the moments when I find my work most fulfilling.
How does a degree in Health Promotion prepare you?
My degree in Health Promotion laid a solid foundation for my career. The emphasis on group work and the practical experiences, especially during my practicum, equipped me with valuable skills that I could directly apply in a job setting. Additionally, my post-graduation experience as a recipient of the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) was instrumental in kick starting my federal service career. It was the combination of my education at PSU and the PMF program that opened doors for me in federal service.
Do you have any advice for current students?
I would encourage current students to be open to opportunities that may initially scare them. Some of the most enriching experiences in my career were ones I was hesitant to take on, but they pushed me to grow in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. You never know when your next opportunity will come, so always be open to the possibilities.
I’d also like to advocate for considering the federal government as a potential avenue for career advancement. HHS, for instance, has regional offices in various locations, providing flexible workplace options and highly rewarding careers, especially in emergency response. There are numerous entry points into federal service, and I’m more than happy to share information about the PMF program or general opportunities for those interested.