Tim Link was drawn to a career in public health because of the diversity of the field and the thrill of always learning something new. An Environmental Sanitarian at the City of Dubuque Health Services Department for over 20 years, Link says, “I enjoy interacting with people and teaching them about public health to avoid an illness or injury.”
After spending several years in Colorado working as a medical technologist where he performed various laboratory diagnostic tests, Link returned to his hometown of Dubuque to be closer to his family and then girlfriend, now wife.
While working in the City of Dubuque Health Services Department, Link chose to broaden his knowledge by obtaining a Certificate in Public Health from the UI College of Public Health in 2005. The Certificate in Public Health is a 12 semester hour program designed to strengthen basic knowledge and skills in essential public health competencies. All certificate courses are taught via the internet and most are also offered on campus. Students have up to five years to successfully complete the program.
“As a nontraditional student, the certificate program was very helpful in providing tools I could use on a day to day basis,” he says, citing examples such as learning evidence based practices in areas such as food safety.
While Link’s daily work typically includes inspections of restaurants, swimming pools, tattoo parlors, or tanning salons, he may have to drop everything to investigate an outbreak of disease.
“There’s always something that is new or different in public health,” Link says. “We see that in emerging infections such as the Zika or Ebola viruses that are spreading in Central and South America. It is very interesting to learn about these new diseases and how to protect people from them.”
He is also an active member of the Iowa Environmental Health Response Team, which provides on-site technical assistance and inspection services to identify immediate environmental hazards and corrective measures during a public health emergency. Sometimes that work can take him out of state, such as in 2005 when he responded to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Link has also worked on a community health needs assessment and health improvement planning for Dubuque County. The work in these areas recently led to a $31.5 million federal grant to flood proof homes and upgrade storm water infrastructure.
Link says, “Working in this field for so many years, I am constantly reminded of how important environmental health is in preventing disease and meeting the many new and evolving challenges we face on a regular basis.”