Ralph Cordell is a man who sweats the small stuff. As the CDC team lead in the Career Paths to Public Health Program, part of the Science Education and Professional Development Program Office, he has built a career working on infectious diseases and their impact on public health. A 19-year veteran of the CDC, Cordell has worked
extensively on infectious diseases in an out-of-home child care
setting. He was a member of the team responsible for drafting
national standards and documents for health and safety in child
Initially, however, Cordell had his sights set on a different path.
As a student at Southern Illinois University, his dream was to
become a field biologist. In fact, he wasn’t interested in
microbiology until a class project investigating an animal for
parasites changed that.
It was the H1N1 outbreak that indirectly brought Cordell to the
Model Aquatic Health Code project.
“I happened to run into Michael
Beach in the Emergency Operations Center,” Cordell
explains. “He was reviewing some of our materials that were
going out to child care programs. I worked for the Division of
Parasitic Diseases when I first came to CDC (parasites are a
problem in those kids) and have always kept close to them.
Michael asked me if I would chair the Hygiene Technical Committee
and I said ‘yes.’”
Though his direct experience with recreational water illnesses is
limited, Cordell’s knowledge of hygiene from a public health
standpoint made him an ideal candidate to chair the Hygiene
Technical Committee. Prior to coming to the CDC, he was Cook County
(Ill.) director of the Communicable Disease Control Division.
“Since this is not my particular area of expertise, I could
be very open-minded and neutral,” Cordell says.
Working on the project, he says his team’s process was
largely a collaborative effort. Looking ahead, Cordell hopes to see
the work have a direct impact on bather health and safety.
“[Participating in the MAHC] I thought, ’I have an
opportunity to be a part of a process that 10 years from now if I
go to a pool, I will have possibly have had some impact in making
sure it is a relatively safe and healthy operation,’”