Araujo prescribes technology to improve CDC's outcomes

John AraujoJohn Araujo

Public health informatician

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Public health research and practice have changed dramatically in the past 15 years, mostly because new information technology tools are available to help identify emerging diseases and epidemics more quickly. Rising Star John Araujo is in a unique and cross-disciplinary niche: He is advancing the role of IT at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

His dual role of working for both the chief science officer and chief information officer as a public health informatician at CDC puts Araujo at a crucial intersection in conceptualizing and applying IT solutions to pressing public health concerns and disease research.

The 55-year-old former physiology researcher and IT whiz joined CDC in July 2008 to help shape policy and operations. He reports jointly to Assistant Science Officer Lisa Lee and CIO James Seligman.

In one project, Araujo developed a baseline workforce study to analyze CDC's public health informatics needs. The resulting data will enable the agency to hire the right people to meet those needs. In another project, he is helping to plan and implement development strategies for the agency’s IT infrastructure. In a third project, he demonstrated at a national public health event how to quickly set up a wireless network to facilitate communications in a disaster.

“John crosses disciplines — research, IT, project management, evaluation and public health informatics,” said Maurine Goodman, CDC's scientific review officer, who nominated Araujo for the Rising Star award. “He has the meticulousness of the scientist but can apply his ideas effectively in an administrative and policy environment. He is unique.”

Araujo has had a circuitous career that parallels the emergence of public health informatics. In that discipline, informaticians use IT tools to address social problems in new ways. He earned a master’s degree in human development, followed by a doctorate in special studies related to physiology research. He then left academia to work for more than a decade in IT operations at various companies, including Sprint. He earned another master’s degree in health services administration in 2004.

Although he's only been at CDC for a year, Araujo has already completed major projects. “This is his first public health informatics position, and very quickly, he has established credibility inside and outside the CDC,” Lee said.

“John has insight and a scientific approach to problems, as well as analytic tools, that make him a very valuable and unique employee,” Seligman said.

Araujo said he enjoys tackling a broad range of policy and operational challenges. He refers to his dual reporting responsibility as a “beautiful arrangement.”

“I was modeling informatics before there was such a field formally,” Araujo said. “I have a passion to bring together science, research and information technology. They have to tell me to go home. I am having the time of my life."

The annual Rising Star awards are presented by the 1105 Government Information Group, publisher of Federal Computer Week, GCN and Washington Technology,  to public and private sector employees in the federal IT community who have gone above and beyond their job descriptions to make a lasting impact in their organization. See all the 2009 Rising Star award winners.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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