DHEC Celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Welcomes Science-minded Individuals to Consider a Career with Environmental or Public Health Protection

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is proud to celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which aims to promote full and equal access for women and girls to participate in science and technology education and careers.

Feb. 11 marks the 9th annual day of this global recognition, which the United Nations and institutions around the world support to highlight the significant gender gap that persists at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines around the world.

The day also serves as a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities, and their participation in these fields should be strengthened.

“Historically, women haven’t been given the same opportunities as men to pursue a love of science, which is why we’re happy to celebrate the efforts of International Day of Women and Girls in Science to achieve fair and equal access to science and technology fields of study,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “At DHEC, we are fortunate to employ many women who did pursue their love for science and use their knowledge and expertise every day to serve and protect South Carolinians in many ways – including our director of Environmental Affairs, director of Health Promotion and Services, director of Healthcare Quality, our Chief-of-Staff, Finance and Operations Chief, and Communications director.”

Myra Reece, DHEC Director of Environmental Affairs, has been a DHEC employee for 30 years and has a background in microbiology and public health. “I truly believe that science benefits everyone – those who are engaged with it directly as well as those who benefit from the results of scientific study, practice and research,” Myra said. “I encourage anyone, especially girls and women, to engage in one or more of the various fields of science, whether in or out of school. At DHEC, science-derived data are what inform our actions every day, to help us protect our great state’s irreplaceable air, water, and land resources.”
Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Director of Health Promotion and Services, is trained and board-certified in general surgery with a medical degree and undergraduate degree in microbiology. “We can’t protect people from disease without science,” Dr. Traxler said. “The science backgrounds of DHEC’s nurses, epidemiologists, nutritionists, dieticians, data analysts, and clinical healthcare workers are what allow us to protect the wellbeing of South Carolinians. Getting involved in science is an incredible way to care for other people.”
Gwendolyn Thompson, DHEC Director of Healthcare Quality, has been a DHEC employee for more than 30 years and has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. “Pursuing a science education opens up a world of opportunity for future careers because science is so ubiquitous – it’s in us and all around us,” said Gwen. “In Healthcare Quality, we use science-based methods as part of our day-to-day activities to ensure health care facilities and service providers are safely caring for the health of their patients.”

Additionally, Karla Buru, DrPH, serves as Chief of Staff for DHEC and has a doctorate in public health, she was a Fulbright research scholar and was recently included in the national 40 under 40 in public healthDarbi MacPhail serves as Chief Finance and Operations Officer and has degrees in public health and health administration; and Cristi Moore serves as Communications Director and is also immediate Past President and Region IV representative for the National Public Health Information Coalition. Six women comprise more than half of DHEC’s top leadership positions.