Leadership During Crisis
These days, Dr. Matt Howie has a full plate. In addition to being the Medical Director of the City of York Bureau of Health, he’s stepped up as Chair of Healthcare & Resurgence Mitigation for the YoCo Strong Recovery Task Force.
Dr. Howie is a family physician by trade, but he’s been on the Bureau of Health for five years now, taking on the challenge of countywide public health and wellness. From treating tuberculosis (“It still exists in 2020,” he says) to managing mental health issues, and now mitigating the COVID-19 crisis, his job runs the gamut.
When the York County Commissioners developed the YoCo Strong Recovery Task Force to assess their response to the pandemic and develop a plan of action for future crises, Dr. Howie was a natural fit.
“I had a good idea of where some of the challenges were,” says Dr. Howie, listing issues like drug overdoses and medication distribution. “What was a problem before was just exacerbated by COVID-19.”
When he once worked adjacent to President Commissioner Julie Wheeler — who built the task force — the two now speak just about every day.
For Wheeler, it feels natural. “He’s very thoughtful. He really looked at the crisis from a holistic standpoint,” she says.
Dr. Howie wants to get public health out of survival mode, and he wants to do so by increasing COVID-19 testing. So what will that increased testing look like? “Timely screening, isolation and support of those affected,” he says, particularly with marginalized communities in mind. “Instead of operating in a shortage mentality, we’ll be able to identify pockets of outbreaks earlier.”
Whatever the decision, Dr. Howie is always his own devil’s advocate. “I try to challenge my own assumptions before I make a final decision on anything,” he says. “Are the things we know about this accurate and complete?”
At home, Dr. Howie has a strong support system of his own. His wife is a first-grade teacher who does her job with a mask and face shield on. His three daughters are in college or graduate school. Even with all they have going on, his family remains supportive of his long hours.
Job titles aside, Dr. Howie positions himself as a health advocate for York County residents of all colors and creeds. “To be a true health advocate, you need to understand the county,” he says. “How do we maximize the health and minimize the disease?” For Dr. Howie, the answer is one worth fighting for.
YoCo Connect Perspectives:
How has the York community supported the growth of your small business? “Prior to The coronavirus pandemic, much of the work I and my colleagues were doing was not well known and ‘under the radar’. In the months since COVID-19 concerns became more public and challenging, my teams work is now very much in the public arena. As we in medicine learn more about the coronavirus, the York community has been supportive of our guidance about the disease and adopting the key recommendations.” – Dr. Matt Howie, Medical Director of the City of York Bureau of health
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