Brad Myers, ’86, doesn’t always know what his work day will bring him. He could find himself producing a video about the danger of small turtles being linked to salmonella outbreaks, working with IT professionals to update broken web links, or discussing public health surveillance strategy. 

Myers has worked for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for over 25 years and currently works as director of the Division of Communication Services. “If you see it, read it, hear about it, or call the CDC about it, it comes through my office,” he says. “One of the wonderful things about my job is that unlike a lot of the parts of the CDC, who work on one particular issue, I work on everything.”

Lately, Myers has been spending time working on radio public service announcements in response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, short videos for social media about flu season, and increasing participation in a project where the CDC collects information about the health of the nation.

But beyond spending time working on current issues facing the nation’s public health, Myers’ role allows him to think long-term about how to prepare for and address larger health challenges that will affect the pubic for many years to come. “The opioid epidemic has run beyond its initial cause, which was physicians prescribing opioids too many times.” Myers said. “The CDC issued recommendations to physicians on prescribing opioids that seem to be taking hold but now people are addicted and can’t get the pills, so they’re moving to cheaper and more dangerous drugs. The President declaring it a public health emergency is great, but it’s going to take years for us to get a handle on this, and we need to start now.”

How did Myers, who studied political science and English at Richmond and planned to go to law school, end up as one of the more senior professionals at the CDC? He says it was a bit of serendipity and a lot of work and persistence. “I was taking a break from law school and working at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and my wife wanted to move closer to her family in Atlanta,” he says. “I wanted to stay a federal employee so I applied to different agencies and the CDC had an opening.”

Myers started as a contracting officer, which fit with his legal background and negotiating skills, and through that work, slowly developed an interest in public health and began to progress to managing CDC programs. “I was lucky enough to be offered new opportunities, and once I was offered something, I was all in, which led to the next opportunity,” he said. “Myself and another person put the Division of Communication Services together 13 years ago, and I’ve been director for the past six years.”

While he may not have studied public health at UR, Myers said his Richmond education helped him get to where he is today. “Richmond is a place that encourages you to think broadly, to take a deep dive into as many things as you would like to,” he said. I’m proof that even if you spend your college career thinking you want to be a lawyer, you can still be a high level public health professional. Richmond prepared me for that.”

Sharing Experience and Advice with Students

Myers gave the keynote address at the Deconstructing Health event presented by Career Services in October 2017. Besides sharing information about his role at the CDC and his career path, he offered the following advice for students:

  •  Don’t close yourself off to something that is of interest to you.
  • Find your passion and demonstrate that to prospective employers.
  • Be persistent, learn from your failures, and keep going.