The DIS Corner spotlights the work of DIS around the country. Meet the amazing people who are on the front lines of the STD epidemics in the US.
The one thing I would like people to know about DIS is that we are people who sincerely want to help other people.Tonyunika Smith
As a DIS, I have been able to use almost every skill gained from my past educational and vocational experiences. I love being able to utilize what I have learned from my science courses to my interpersonal skills to even my basic typing to help improve the health status of people in the state of Alabama. I grew up in Alabama and being able to give back and see improvement and growth, no matter how small, is such a rewarding aspect of the work I do. I also immensely enjoy the continual contact with patients and the feeling of accomplishment when I am able to “walk and coach” them from the pre-test phase through the treatment/care phase of our journey together and beyond. For me, there is no greater feeling than when I make a genuine connection, build a heartfelt rapport, and lasting relationship with a patient or client throughout our communication.
The one thing I would like people to know about DIS is that we are people who sincerely want to help other people. The most basic goal of any DIS is to help people improve their health by providing education about infections, how to make better life choices, and possible options for care and treatment. As a DIS, I am extremely passionate about ensuring my patients have a solid understanding of their condition and how to prevent its spread and re-infection. Know that DIS are not the “STD police!” We are real people who want to help other people see real results and positive change in their lives.
Building trust with MSM and trans communities of color has been very important to me as a DIS. As an African American woman, I can relate to the disparities and judgments that may arise from simply being a person of color. I try to build trust in the MSM and trans communities by expressing my empathy and understanding of overcoming the barriers and stigmas created by those who choose not to understand the challenges and refuse to provide acceptable services to people in these communities. Reaching people where they are physically, mentally, and emotionally, developing a better understanding of ever-changing terminology, and becoming more accommodating are all integral pieces for the edification of confidence in the MSM and trans communities. Without labels, tags, colors, etc., we are all people. Fundamentally, trust simply begins with a positive interaction intended to reach mutual goals and understanding.
The DIS Corner calls attention to the crucial role that DIS play in STD prevention, while highlighting their success stories and resources to overcome challenges in the field. Are you a DIS that wants to share a story or tool/resource that helps you in any aspect of your work? Email Leandra Lacy for it to be featured in the DIS Corner!
As a Disease Intervention Specialist for the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), Mrs. Smith works with patients, providers, and community liaisons to help lessen the burden of communicable disease across the state. She has been conducting field investigations and reporting case statuses for both STD (including HIV) and Hepatitis C infections. Mrs. Smith has assisted in the development and implementation of a standardized Hepatitis C protocol in her 2-year tenure with ADPH. She is also very active in community awareness, health promotion, and disease prevention as she recently attended the “Savings Ourselves Symposium” in Birmingham, Alabama, to serve as a guest panelist for the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).