Skip to main content

‘It has essentially become my full-time job’: One alum’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic

Cathy Ferguson-Allen '91 is the public health administrator for Lee County.

Cathy Ferguson-Allen '91 is the public health administrator for Lee County.

Cathy Ferguson-Allen ’91 was always interested in health and wellness. Initially interested in teaching physical education, she shifted gears upon arrival at Illinois State University. “I honestly didn’t know there was a major called community health until I went to ISU and spoke to an advisor,” said Ferguson-Allen. “The minute I heard about it; I was sold.  

Ferguson-Allen currently serves as the public health administrator for Lee County, a position where every day is different. The main goal of her position is to lead her department through programming and services that aim to promote and protect the health of the county’s residents. 

Beginning in early February, her job began to revolve around coronavirus (COVID-19). “There is always so much to do as a health department administrator, but the pandemic has significantly added to the stress and the time demands,” she said. 

“It has essentially become my full-time job,” said Ferguson-Allen. “As the health administrator for the county, I am the Incident Commander of our county’s pandemic response efforts. We regularly work with our community partners on various programming, but this takes those collaborations to a whole new level. 

I’ve spent considerable time in our county Emergency Operations Center the last few months. There are regular updates from IDPH and CDC, local partner meetings, command staff meetings, public information to get out on a regular basis, and fielding countless inquiries from businesses and residents on the executive orders, phases of the Restore Illinois plan, risk reduction, testing, PPE, and more.”

In addition, other members of the Lee County Health Department are working on time-intensive activities such as quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing. 

There has not been a day in my 27-year career thus far that I have regretted choosing public health,” said Ferguson-Allen. Every day is different. There are always new challenges. There are so many options and specialties within public health to choose from. 

There are many intrinsic rewards from serving one’s community.  And I believe after this pandemic, public health will be valued more by everyone. 

Could community health promotion be the major for you? Learn more here. 

Learn more about Illinois State University’s response to COVID-19 here.