Jon Macomber '17 is still ecstatic after being hired in March to become a public health and public policy analyst for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation's health protection agency.
"This is the kind of place where I can see myself working for the next 20 years, going up the chain as far as I can," Macomber says of the Atlanta-based agency. "In terms of career goals, this is exactly where I want to be."
Within the CDC, Macomber is working for the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services (CSELS), a collection of about 30 programs that form the foundation for the nation's health infrastructure. It provides scientific services, expertise, skills and tools to support CDC efforts to promote health, prevent disease and prepare for emerging health threats.
Macomber's responsibilities include managing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and inquiries from U.S. Congress members seeking insight from public health subject matter experts.
"These requests come in and I have to learn on the fly," Macomber says. "A lot of government is taking wonky material and making it digestible. When I do my job well, politicians will receive the necessary data to make impactful decisions."
Macomber says there's a chance he will soon work on the agency's COVID-19 response but that will happen after he accumulates more time on the job.
"After I get my feet wet, I may be deployed to the COVID response," he says. "I'm happy to be a part of this moment in time to help battle this incredible health crisis."
In 2010, Macomber, a Westerly native, was deployed to fight in another type of crisis: the U.S. war in Afghanistan, where he spent nine months working as an Army medic.
"I was trained to use intravenous therapy and hemorrhage reduction techniques, which are the basic operations of a trauma paramedic," he says. "When I wasn't deployed, I worked in an urgent care style setting. My Army experience taught me to be very accepting about expecting change."
When he enrolled at RIC as a student veteran in 2014, Macomber decided to change his focus to healthcare policy after consulting with RIC Healthcare Administration Professor Marianne Raimondo.
"With courses that were broad and those that got into the weeds, the healthcare administration major gave me a good foot in the door to earning a foundational degree about the management of healthcare in the U.S.," he says. "The professors did a great job of delivering real life health news of the moment and incorporating it into our courses."
RIC Associate Professor Christine Connolly recalled Macomber's dedication to his studies, which covered topics such as quality improvement and ethics in healthcare.
"He worked hard and had a passion for learning and challenging himself," Connolly says of Macomber, who graduated with magna cum laude honors. "It was a delight to have him in class. He now has an impressive resume of accomplishments for someone who graduated in 2017."
After RIC, Macomber moved on to earn a master's degree in public affairs at Brown University in 2018, specializing in public policy analysis. Later that year he landed a position as a staffer in the office of late U.S. Congressman John Lewis, leading outreach efforts on behalf of the congressman to military constituents in his district in Atlanta.
"Congressman Lewis was as good a person as advertised," Macomber says. "He was very warm and kind. Over two years of working with him we had hundreds of interactions. He got to know all his staff well. It was a very sad day when he passed."
Macomber credits his time with Lewis for helping to obtain his position with the CDC.
"If I hadn't put in a few years of grunt work on a congressional staff, I wouldn't be working at the CDC," he says.
Macomber advises aspiring students to "be nimble if you want to get to where you want to go. It's OK to go broader in your academic training, such as what I did with healthcare administration. I could be doing almost anything with that degree. Expect that you may have to make career changes and don't ever let anything be finite."