Meet Ken Ruby, head of the STD efforts in Maryland and a great NCSD member.
What I love the most about working in STD prevention is the team I have the honor of working with. It is rare to have such a dedicated, nonjudgmental, creative group of people able to tackle the (many) thankless tasks of STD prevention.Ken Ruby
What I love the most about working in STD prevention is the team I have the honor of working with. It is rare to have such a dedicated, nonjudgmental, creative group of people able to tackle the (many) thankless tasks of STD prevention. Outside our immediate team, we have Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS) throughout the state who work tirelessly to bring people into screening and treatment. Coming from the HIV case management world, I am familiar with all the barriers to care and social determinants preventing many people from accessing care and treatment. In many ways, DIS and STD prevention strategies focus on tackling those same barriers.
It’s not a surprise that dwindling resources is an ongoing challenge. Another challenge is the stigma and silence around STDs. In some ways, HIV has made a lot of progress in decreasing the stigma surrounding HIV. There are HIV advocates, superheroes, consumer advisory boards, planning councils and more that help lead the charge in HIV education, awareness, and acceptance. However, it is difficult to find consumers willing to put their face out there as an advocate for STD prevention. We saw Joey Tribbiani accidentally do it in a “Friends” episode where his picture was used for an STD campaign, but other examples (without the punchline) are rare and far between. And we’ve all been at an event with non-public health folks and shared what we do, only to get “oh’s”, blank stares, and people making a swift retreat.
In my free time, I am a self-admitted karaoke addict. I will plan vacations around getting to the best karaoke venues and have an organized lists of songs with me at all times in case of a karaoke opportunity. I’m also a fan of comic books and superhero genre, whistling while I work (sorry team!), nerding out with fellow nerds by brainstorming out-of-the-box ideas, and making corny dad jokes.
Ken joined the Maryland Department of Health as the Center Chief for STI Prevention in January 2017. Prior to this position, Ken worked at a local FQHC for 20+ years overseeing psychosocial programs including HIV and general case management, outreach services, HIV testing, and community outreach via a mobile van. Before that, Ken was the best paperboy in a small town until an unfortunate accident in the snow led to his dearly-departed mom forcing him to quit that job to go work at the grocery store. Ken found his interest in healthcare (social work, psychology, and management/business administration) following a long period of denial of ever “getting” organic chemistry and pursuing a career as a veterinarian. He lives in Baltimore with his partner of 26 years, two dogs, and nefarious kitten who rules the household, and visits “downy ocean ‘hon” regularly with the whole family.