MPH Grad, Mary Catherine Bertulfo, Named CDC Employee of the Month

Bertulfo headshotMary Catherine Bertulfo, a 2015 graduate of UF’s Master of Public Health program, was named the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) April Employee of the Month.

Below is the full story about her and her work, published in the April 23rd issue of the “CDC Connect” newsletter. This is an internal newsletter that CDC employees receive, and has been published here with permission from Mary Catherine Bertulfo.

“Mary Catherine Bertulfo, MPH, health scientist within the Division of Health Informatics and Surveillance (DHIS), in the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services (CSELS), is CDC’s Employee of the Month. She was nominated for her contributions to improving efficiency in five important functions within the DHIS Surveillance Data Branch (SDB) during 4th Quarter 2018. They include developing a new SDB SharePoint site, standard operating procedures (SOP) for scientific abstracts, conference tracking, supporting development of a cadre of Contract Officer Representatives (CORs), and implementing a training survey to address branch needs. Bertulfo identified the need to improve and standardize internal branch operations and processes to support project and publications development and tracking. The branch needed improvement on clearance procedures and team coordination. In addition, they needed a searchable repository of final products. She identified SharePoint as the right tool to support these requirements. Through collaboration with a SharePoint subjectmatter- expert, she identified capabilities and architecture and then created a new site for the branch. She gathered an inventory of needs from various SDB teams, worked with SDB leadership to identify gaps in knowledge, produced drafts of the proposed site, and gathered staff feedback to complete the project.

“Mary Catherine is a great problem solver. She identifies bottle necks, figures out ways to solve problems, and then independently makes it happen,” said Bethany Anderson, public health advisor in DHIS and Bertulfo’s supervisor.

Bertulfo developed an improved system to process scientific abstracts. She also improved project development with standard operating procedures (SOPs) to address branch clearance challenges. She worked with the division’s associate director for science and the branch data science advisor. Together they clarified roles and responsibilities of each person in every step of the process, from the project concept clearance through final agency clearance and publishing requirements. This analysis resulted in development of a guidance document and a clearance one-pager checklist. These resources are available to branch staff on their new SharePoint site. Bertulfo automated the checklist so when staff submit ideas, they are electronically routed to supervisors for approval. The system automatically tracks approved projects as they move forward. Bertulfo recognized there was no strategy for tracking staff requests for approval to attend conferences. In addition, there was no system to track conference attendance or funds expended on specific conferences. There was no long-term systematic projection to determine who should attend conferences. They were manually tracking entries into the Integrated Conference Approval Portal (ICAP).

Bertulfo developed a branch conference tracker to project for two-year periods. She developed a SharePoint interactive conference request tool where staff can request to attend various conferences. This tool eliminates the administrative need to compile manually lists of staff requests for conference attendance. It reduced burden on team leads and staff who no longer need to gather information through email. The system maintains a central repository of ICAP requests. In addition, this tracker “flags” staff presenting at various conference, which increases awareness for other staff involved in abstract clearance and other processes.

Bertulfo identified a need to increase the number of qualified Contracting Officer Representatives (CORs) available for new contracts. COR certification steps and requirements at three levels are complex. Bertulfo identified certification steps for COR I, COR II, COR III, and identified branch staff who would be strong candidates to become COR certified. Using this information, she developed a “Cadre of CORs” program. Her program provided information to candidates about steps for certification and instructions on how to meet these requirements. Staff registered in Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application (FAITA) system to meet training requirements in 13 competencies. By October 2018, five staff were COR I certified. This number will double by October 30, 2019. The program includes pairing each Cadre member with existing CORs so they can get “shadowing” experience to help them become COR II certified and able to take on COR work. With the success of this “pilot” project, DHIS plans to roll out the program division-wide.

Bertulfo identified concerns about efficient branch training. She conducted a training assessment. She developed an interactive SharePoint survey tool that allowed staff to provide individual input on training needs. She was able to identify certain trainings that multiple branch staff requested which made it possible to purchase on-line trainings in bulk or scheduled group trainings. This process will allowed the branch to maximize funds available for training. Her assessment were included in budget planning for FY 2019.

“Bertulfo has demonstrated initiative, creativity, independence, and tenacity in all that she has done for our branch,” said Anderson. “She is amazing, and our branch is much more efficient since she implemented her ideas.”

A native of Germany, Bertulfo attended the University of Florida where she earned her MPH degree. She joined CDC in 2015 as an ORISE fellow in the Office of Public Health Scientific Services within CSELS and became an FTE in 2017. For Bertulfo, public health work is a family tradition. Her father, Reinaldo Bertulfo, is a former public health advisor, and her brother Joseph serves as deputy director for the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at CDC. Bertulfo lives with her husband, Nathan DeWitt, and their pit bull terrier, Ronin Shinobi.”