Equipped with worldly knowledge and an extensive background in public health, Harvard graduate Jiancheng Huang is Oswego County’s newly appointed public health director.
Huang was born and raised in China, where he acquired his medical degree from Shanghai Second Medical University in 1987. During his post-graduate training, Huang said he traveled to some of the more rural areas of China.
“At the time China was not like now, so glamorous. I had the opportunity to visit some rural areas and I felt that as a physician my capacity is limited to one patient, but if I studied public health I could help more people,” said Huang.
In 1991 he ventured into the United States where he attended Harvard School of Public Health. Just two years later, Huang earned a master’s of science degree.
Among other credentials, Huang has since worked as an epidemiologist and then director of the Maine immunization program for the Maine Centers for Disease Control.
Epidemiology is defined as the study of diseases and the effects of preventive medicine in large populations in order to detect the source of epidemics. For more than two years, Huang was an epidemiologist. He said Maine CDC performed a national search for the immunization program director position before choosing him. He held the position for seven years before coming to Oswego.
“I built up a disease surveillance system,” Huang said of his work at Maine CDC. “I worked with the community and other agencies to promote vaccines and prevent diseases and develop a strategy to promote public health.”
Huang has also performed clinical research at the University of Pennsylvania, has experience in biomedical research and is a published practitioner.
“I definitely consider myself an achieved public health worker. I appreciate that this country has given so many opportunities to me,” said Huang.
Huang was appointed Oswego County public health director by the Oswego County Legislature in July. The position became available after the retirement of Dennis Norfleet, a physician who retired after many years holding the position.
“Throughout the search process and the interview process, I was impressed by many of Mr. Huang’s credentials and accomplishments,” said Oswego County Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley when he made the announcement. “I was very impressed by his genuine desire to communicate and educate the public,”
Huang’s passion for public health, which Beardsley noted, was not lost on the other members of the committee either.
John Proud, a legislator who presided the selection committee, said, “We conducted a comprehensive national search and received many responses from candidates from across the country with a wide range of professional experience. After a thorough evaluation process, we are pleased to welcome Mr. Huang to Oswego County.”
Regarding the appointment process, Huang said he applied for the position posted along with other applicants. He participated in a phone interview, after which he was chosen to travel to Oswego for a live interview. He then met with the committee members, who after making their decision, came to the floor and voted.
“I chose Mr. Huang because I believe he sees the health department not only as a policing unit, but as a department tasked with educating and communicating with the people of Oswego County,” said Beardsley.
The position’s posting described a job for which candidates would earn a salary between $85,500 and $123,300 plus benefits by supervising 90 employees to promote public health to Oswego County’s 122,000 residents. The public health director operates on an annual budget of $15.4 million.
Huang said he chose to move to Oswego County to accept the position because he was curious to see how public health is run on a local level as opposed to the state level.
Tackling the issues
Among New York state’s 62 counties, Oswego County is ranked 38th for public health, according to countyhealthrankings.org. Huang said one of his goals as public health director is to raise this ranking.
“This is a challenge. A public health ranking is not just one [issue]. There are a lot of issues there, and we definitely need to work on it and improve our ranking. As for how, I will say I will work with all stakeholders together,” Huang said.
Working together with the community and other health-promoting agencies is something Huang likes to do. He said he plans to learn more from other public health institutes and other agencies in order to achieve a common goal of preventing disease and promoting health in Oswego.
On his team, Huang said he has Oswego Health, Oswego County Opportunities and the county board of health, which he will work closely with, among other organizations.
“The resources are always challenging, and the health issues are there. But I feel in this department we have a very strong, professional, dedicated staff. I will work with all the staff and outside stakeholders in building partnership collaboration and bring the community together to reach our goal,” said Huang.