BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Mayor Bill de Blasio presented the 41st annual Sloan Public Service Awards – regarded as the Nobel Prize of City government – to six civil servants last Wednesday. One of the recipients, Dr. Annie Fine, represents the innovative and influential work coming out of Long Island City.
Fine is medical director of the data analysis and reportable disease surveillance unit at the Dept. of Health at Queens Plaza. She works at the forefront of disease detection and analysis for the entire City, processing about 1,000 reports of disease sent daily from laboratories across the boroughs.
“My job is overseeing all that information processing, as well as analyzing all that information to make sure that we can find anything unusual going on in the sort of river of information flowing into us,” Fine said.
It is highly technical work, she explained, in which she and her colleagues look for strange patterns and examine outliers.
However, Fine also participates in micro-level investigations of individual cases, placing her in situations that sound like plot lines from the TV show “House.”
She remembered one case in which a liver transplant recipient and a lung transplant recipient both became sick after receiving organs from the same donor. After visiting one of the recipients, Fine deduced that the patients had contracted West Nile Virus from their donor.
“It turned out to be a very interesting case and we learned a lot about West Nile Virus,” Fine said.
According to the website for the Fund for the City of New York, which sponsors the Sloan Awards, Fine created a West Nile Virus surveillance and control plan as a result of this case, which became a national model as the disease spread throughout the country.
As an example of a more typical case, Fine recalled a patient with brucella – bacteria that can be passed from raw, unpasteurized dairy products, the sale of which is restricted in New York. The mystery was that this particular patient had not left the City.
“Basically, it turned out that when I interviewed the person, he came from Ecuador and although he had not been to Ecuador, his family had brought [him] unpasteurized cheese,” Fine said.
The Sloan Public Service Award recognizes civil servants from all ranks of City government.
In a statement released last week, Sloan Foundation president Dr. Paul Joskow said, “our civil servants not only make New York City function efficiently day to day, [but also] spark the innovations and drive the achievements that make our city a global leader.”
The award ceremony took place last Wednesday evening, featuring a keynote speech from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“I just thought it was amazing,” Fine said of the ceremony. “I felt that the other award recipients were so impressive and each in their own way such determined and impressive people, so I was just thrilled to be part of it, and so honored.”
“Also, I thought [the recipients] represented a great cross-section of New York City,” Fine added.
Her fellow recipients included the director of public safety at Hostos Community College, the director of consumer services in charge of responding to complaints for the Dept. of Consumer Affairs and the principal of Liberation Diploma Plus High School on Coney Island.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.