Last April, the Brookline Health and Human services department welcomed Dr. Swannie Jett from Seminole Country Florida as its new director. Dr. Jett brings with him a wealth of experience to the town. Before his current position, he founded Jettstream Communications Consulting Group in 2016 which specializes in public relations, health policy, leadership development and community engagement. He has served as the Health Officer/Surgeon General for Seminole County Florida and as the Health Officer of Bullitt County Health Department in Kentucky where he led the way for each of these departments to become nationally accredited. Some of his notable accomplishments include several comprehensive public health initiatives such as creating a men’s health program in Louisville, KY as well as reducing infant mortality from 21.0 to 11.0 in the African-American community through Healthy Start program and Coalition in Seminole County, Florida.
Dr. Jett first witnessed the impact of social programs as a young intern and realized that he could make a difference serving in the area of public health. However, his passion for public health reaches far beyond a community level. One of his most definitive experiences has been humanitarian work, serving both in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and in Africa during the recent Ebola epidemic. Having spent 16 years in the military, Dr.Jett continues to serve as a Major in the Rhode Island National Guard. He describes his time in Iraq as teaching him how to respond to unexpected issues and mitigate potential disasters in a high-stress environment. Volunteering in Africa during the Ebola epidemic also increased his awareness of just how important it is to have a healthy public as crises can spread quickly.
“These experiences teach you just how interconnected the world is,” he said. “I volunteered to go to Africa to ensure the threat wouldn’t come back to our country. They change your life. For me, I had a better appreciation for life itself. I don’t take things for granted, I was able to work with all types of people, and it was great to see the camaraderie that can exist between people of different nationalities, races, religions, and cultures. Seeing the state of our nation today, I wish everyone can take that approach.”
Since taking on his new role, Dr. Jett’s top priority is addressing the rat population in Brookline as well as reducing the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses through community outreach and comprehensive planning.
“My main concern is that the public health system is working,” he said.
Brookline Health and Human Services has an active communication and outreach effort through its website as well as social media. They also highlight different public health concerns to focus on each month to keep the community regularly updated.
When asked about the most rewarding aspect of his career in public health, Dr. Jett says “although it may sound cliché, identifying a problem and seeing us come together to solve it is the most rewarding part of this job.”
In his new community, Dr. Jett hopes to bring all he has to offer to a town that he has come to see as a unique place. Having relocated from Florida, Dr. Jett is already impressed with the town of Brookline and its people.
“In Brookline, everyone is willing to help out even if they don’t know much about what it is they’re helping,” he said. “People take their careers seriously but have special interests outside of their job. They have a voice. They participate in town meetings. That is what makes Brookline unique. Every citizen has a voice, and not many communities have that.”
-By Alicia Landsberg