Meet the Scientist: Sue CasteelPosted on by
My “Meet the Scientist” series brings you conversations with NCEH/ATSDR scientists that aim to give you a sense of the talented people who are working to keep you safe and secure from things in the environment that threaten our nation’s health. I chatted with someone who knows the Clintons (yes, Bill and Hilary), and is a scuba diver and basket weaver, though not at the same time! Meet ATSDR regional representative Sue Casteel.
Sue is originally from the small town of Calico Rock, Arkansas. She completed her undergraduate studies in biology and chemistry at Hendrix College in Arkansas, and she earned her graduate degree in environmental health from the University of Arkansas. And just for the record, she’s a Razorbacks fan.
While in Arkansas, she worked for former U.S. president Bill Clinton as a volunteer on several of his campaigns. She first met Hilary, and soon after, met Bill. As we continued to talk, we discovered that we each have a sister living in the town of Thibodeux, Louisiana. They both work at the local hospital and likely know each other. My sister is a pharmacist and Sue’s is a doctor. It is indeed a small world!
Path to Public Health
Before moving to Atlanta, Georgia in early May 2012, Sue worked in ATSDR’s Kansas City office. There, she served as a regional representative in a scientific capacity. “I did a lot of community involvement and outreach at several sites I worked on. So a couple of years ago, I sat down and asked myself what I think is the most worthwhile thing I do,” Sue explained. “I realized it was the health education/community involvement component of the job. When some health education positions became available (in Atlanta), I said to myself ‘I’d love to do that!” I switched over from a scientific/technical role to a health education/community involvement role.” “But we need more scientists in the world!” I replied. Sue countered with “I’ve got the best of both worlds: I understand the science, but I also understand how important it is to communicate our health messages in ways people can understand them.”
Most Interesting Work Assignment
Sue told me that although she’s been involved in several interesting work assignments, the one that stands out at the moment involves community response to the catastrophic Joplin, Missouri tornadoes of 2011. Because of the extent of the destruction, the community was possibly exposed to asbestos. Sue was particularly excited about her assignment because “this was the first time I got to use all venues of social media to reach out to communities.
“For example, as a partner with EPA, I needed to communicate warnings to Joplin residents in real time. I used Twitter blasts to transmit warnings to residents working in the debris area because most had cell phones. And I used Facebook and the EPA Joplin Tornado Web page to provide air quality information.”
In her spare time, Sue participates in many hobbies. For example, she has a passion for pottery. I shared with her that my brother enjoys this hobby, too, and owns his own kiln. Sue’s other hobbies include basket weaving and scuba-diving.
We’re glad to have Sue with us in Atlanta. Check back soon for my next “Meet the Scientist” post!