MHOA Member Spotlight – Kristin Black
By Mingrui Wei
By Mingrui Wei
Kristin Black currently serves as the Health Agent for the Northborough Health Department. She is in charge of overseeing the various Health Department tasks including COVID-19 clinics. She is also the grant administrator and project coordinator for the Greater Boroughs Partnership for Health which provides shared public health services for Boylston, Northborough, Southborough and Westborough.
Her undergraduate and graduate degrees focused on Environmental Sciences. Before entering the field of public health, Dr. Black served as a Regulatory Reviewer for the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and then as Conservation Agent for Uxbridge. She then transitioned to the Uxbridge Board of Health part-time and was deeply attracted by the dynamic challenges and ever-changing nature of public health, as well as the opportunity to form local relationships with community members. “It was no question I fell in love with public health once I stepped into it,” explained Dr. Black, “I loved the challenge of public health. I loved that you are forever learning in such a broad field and you will never get bored.” Small town and municipal government is another thing in public health that attracts Dr. Black. “I love collaborating with other departments in different specialties and [having] the unique ability to collaborate with other towns in our region.”
Dr. Black made her transition from the Uxbridge Board of Health to the Northborough Health department right in the middle of the COVID-pandemic. She was the Health Director for the Uxbridge Board of Health for over five years, so she was equipped with previous experience and a tight working-relationship with other public health officials around the area. With these experiences and relationships, she was able to adapt to the new position quickly and smoothly. Her role changed significantly as she took upon the responsibility of leading a new initiative of a large vaccination clinic that collaborated with six other towns, but she was aware of the situation she was walking into and she was well prepared to face the challenges of a new stage of life.
One major struggle during the pandemic was understaffing and managing staff burnout, especially with the high volume of calls from the public regarding their concerns and confusion over the COVID-19 vaccine. However, Dr. Black and her team were able to achieve high vaccination and compliance rates, with the support of volunteers, other town departments and residents. Moving forward, she wishes to continue to work with regional partners and build upon relationships with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). “The silver lining of the pandemic has been the connections and shared resources,” she said, “We’ll continue to look to improve our services and our involvement with those agencies through emergency planning.”
The current focus of work in the Northborough Health Department is still heavily COVID-related, but Dr. Black also looks forward to getting back to normal business and daily life. With the Public Health Excellence Grant Award and the community shared services, it is possible to build out more public health programs and prevention-based approaches to address public health concerns of the community. Two of Dr. Black’s top priorities are increasing educational opportunities for senior citizens and reinforcing relationships with youth services on substance abuse. She stated, “We’ve built a lot of trust and connections in the community through the pandemic. We’re hoping to build upon those strengths and try to approach public health with a bit more of a prevention and education lens that we’ve been able to in the past.”
Dr. Black cannot speak highly enough about the department heads in the community when asked about how she settled in the town of Northborough over the past year. She was grateful for how they have provided their support and collaboration together to ensure the best services for the residents. She loves the creativity of customizing programs to address the unique needs of the community and being able to see how the plan actually works out. A shorter commute time from home, the flexibility of family time, and the opportunity to build closer bonds with the community are also some benefits that come from working with the local community. Dr. Black stated,“Northborough is a really special place. I could see myself here for quite some time.”
Aside from work, Dr. Black is a mother of four young children and loves to spend time with her family. She loves doing any and all types of outdoor activities with them, though her favorite hobby is playing indoor soccer. Although the COVID-pandemic has greatly affected this soccer season, her team is starting up soon and she cannot wait to get back together with her teammates and play again.