TRENDS Diary: Boulder COVID Epidemiologist Thinks Globally, Acts Locally

Mindi DePaula completed her graduate degree and became an epidemiologist a few years ago. Now she’s helping Boulder employees navigate the COVID pandemic. She’s pictured here with her dog, Piper.

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dear TRENDS Diary,

Being a COVID epidemiologist is exciting in a weird way. Of course, I would never hope for a pandemic in a million years. But it is pretty neat to have finished my graduate degree a few years before it happened. It has validated that the work I do is important, even when working in the shadows. At times in the past, it seemed like no one even knew the word epidemiologist.

I went into public health to try and make a difference. I studied international health, but really at the core I try to think globally and act locally. This was my opportunity to act locally, to be a part of a team that is trying to protect the health and safety of all the employees at Boulder’s University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and Boulder’s National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Many people have reached out saying thank you because they can actually understand what I’m saying on social media and it’s easy to share with others. That’s my approach to public health: make it digestible so that people understand why the rules and recommendations are what they are. My family has called me more than usual asking me questions and forwarding me to others in their circles to answer Covid-related questions. I’ve even reconnected with a great aunt from it all.

Frontline responders and essential workers are so important, and so are the people in the background collecting data, analyzing data, doing contact tracing. I have learned that just because you have all the science and data to put something into place doesn’t mean it happens. I really think you don’t fully FEEL the weight of that until you try to put policies in place and people just don’t follow rules. The public health rules and recommendations aren’t meant to ruin your lives… they’re meant to save them.

– Mindi DePaola, as told to Will Betke-Brunswick