Karen Relucio M.D., Public Health Officer/Deputy Director of Health and Human Services Agency
October 4, 2021
What motivated you to enter public service?
I entered public service because I wanted to help the most vulnerable. I am an infectious diseases specialist by training and went into this field to become an HIV specialist. After my postgraduate training, I started public service in San Mateo County in a safety-net health system, where I saw patients and worked in public health in emergency preparedness (bioterrorism and pandemics). My interests evolved to improve health equity, as I had seen firsthand the impacts of poor community conditions on my patients’ health, which led me to my current position as a health officer and public health director.
Please describe your role with your County:
I am the Health Officer and Director of the Public Health Division of the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency. The Public Health Division has 17 programs spanning communicable disease control and prevention, chronic disease prevention, emergency preparedness and programs to serve families and children. Public Health participates in several community collaboratives to improve the social determinants of health to promote health equity and to build healthier communities.
As part of this role, I am also in unified command with the Office of Emergency Services for the COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center response, whose role is to perform case and outbreak investigations and contact tracing, coordinate testing, analyze and publish COVID-19 data, provide supportive housing, plan for medical surge and mass vaccinations, and field questions on how to safely reopen.
I have also had the privilege of serving as president of the California Conference of Local Health Officers and the Health Officers Association of California throughout the pandemic, which has dedicated public health officers who have a lot of collective wisdom.
What’s the most interesting or fulfilling part of your job?
I am able to collaborate with a variety of community partners to improve the health of Napa County residents. I have also had the privilege of working with many public health officers and leaders across the state who have worked tirelessly during this pandemic.
Who is your hero?
Nelson Mandela. He is my hero because of his tenacity and long-term work to dismantle apartheid and institutionalized racism in South Africa, as well as his continued philanthropy and activism for those with HIV AIDS. He exemplifies someone who dedicated his life to serving those who are marginalized.
What motivates you to work hard?
I am motivated by a combination of a long checklist and obsessive-compulsive disorder. On a more serious note, I am motivated by serving my community and advancing public health.