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My Flyer Story: Pandemic frontline

My Flyer Story: Pandemic frontline

Dan Suffoletto ’86 August 17, 2021

Dan Suffoletto ’86 protects public health as agency’s chief communicator.

As a public health communicator during a pandemic, everything in my life has changed, personally and professionally. In the last year and a half, my staff and I have worked more hours than I can count. When people ask me about something that’s happening in two weeks, I think, “Two weeks? That’s like 10 years from now in terms of all things that are going to happen between now and then.”

I’ve been the public information manager for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County since 2016. It’s about telling stories to help our community. Public Health has over 50 programs and services, from food inspections to addiction services to programs to reduce infant mortality.

In the last year, our work has been dominated by messages surrounding COVID-19 and how we can protect ourselves. As the chief spokesperson, I am doing many interviews during the pandemic, and with information changing so rapidly, I always have to remind the interviewer, “What I am about to tell you may change before the end of the day.” It is a communications challenge unlike many others because every day our messages have to be adapted or updated based on the new things we are learning about the disease.

Our first public vaccination clinic was Dec. 24 at the Dayton Convention Center. One of the most rewarding things about this job is hearing stories from the people who come in. They are grateful — joyful — to have the vaccine. It is uplifting, especially given how hard we all are working.

“At UD, I not only learned a skill, but I also learned the process of learning.”

When I was a student at UD, I worked at television station WKEF for my required internship for my degree in radio and television communication. I’m a big believer in internships. It accelerated the learning process and helped me see exactly how what I was learning applied to what I would be doing. I worked at WKEF full time for three years before moving to Dayton Access Television. At DATV, we had a commitment to our local community. We helped individuals, governments and nonprofits tell their own stories in a more comprehensive way than could be covered on the evening news.

Today, public information is a 24/7/365 job. The internet has fractured our audiences but created new opportunities. Social media is key to connecting with the community. At UD, I not only learned a skill, but I also learned the process of learning, of how to adapt and move forward. The tasks and tools have changed, but the communications fundamentals are still there and have helped me through this very long — and continuing — emergency response.

At home in the statehouse