Leah Casanave

40 Under 40 Class of 2019

Omaha, Nebraska

Supervisor, STD Prevention and Control Program

Douglas County Health Department
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My superpower is the ability to meet people where they are and communicate complex health situations into lay terms.

BOLD SOLUTION: Leah responded to a request from Metropolitan Omaha Community College to offer free STD testing daily on all three campuses. In collaboration with both Federally Qualified Health Centers in Omaha, Leah proposed a project involving Take Home Test Kits. The kits were made available to students through college counselors and contained materials and instructions for urine specimen collection at home. Once collected, samples could be dropped off at a number of convenient locations and then picked up by designated agencies for laboratory delivery and processing.

Five Questions for Leah

Leah sits upon the prestigious throne of condoms in her office, which was inspired by the “Game of Thrones” series.

1. What are the greatest challenges you face in your public health work?

One of the greatest challenges our program faces is stable funding. Our current political climate makes it hard to secure the amount of funding that we need to try and make a difference in the STD/HIV prevention field. This requires us to think outside the box and figure out how we can “make ends meet” to serve the community the best we can.

2. What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on?

During my MPH, I completed a global health certificate. Part of the requirement was working/interning in a global organization or abroad. I was an intern at the Medical Research Institute in Cape Town, South Africa. I worked on a project that was evaluating the transmission of HIV from mother to child in different regions of South Africa. I was able to see the differences in South African culture (between regions) and the U.S. culture. Even though I worked on just a small piece of this large evaluation effort, it had a major impact on my life.

3. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?

When I went to college, I always thought I wanted to go into the medical field and become a doctor. Some of my favorite movies were those involving infectious disease agents and figuring out the mystery illness that caused the outbreak. I attended a Jesuit college and it required us to focus on theology or philosophy. I studied the philosophy side and took a lot of bioethics courses while I was there. During those bioethic courses, I realized that public health was the field I had dreamed about working in.

4. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be in the medical field. Some of the movies/shows that inspired me: “Sahara,” “Outbreak,” and “House.” (Please don’t judge me on the movies!)

5. Describe yourself in three words.

Outgoing. Non-traditional. Logical.