KENNEBUNK — It’s been quite a journey from attending Kennebunk High School to being honored as one of the top public health officials in America, but that’s exactly the path that Capt. David E. Harvey has been on.

Harvey, a 1988 graduate of Kennebunk High and an officer in the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service, was recently selected as one of eight 2019 recipients nationwide of the Bloomberg Health Initiative for a full scholarship to complete studies in the Doctor of Public Health program at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

“The feeling of accomplishment and impact of solving public health challenges are what drive my interest in public health,” Harvey said. “Public health challenges are dynamic and require collaboration to effectively address and if successfully addressed can improve health of populations.”

He is a registered engineer in Maine and earned a bachelor of science from the University of Maine and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Connecticut. He also earned a master of public health degree from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health.

Harvey has been a Commissioned Corps officer for 20 years and has worked in the Environmental Protection Agency and is currently working for the Indian Health Service. During times of public health emergencies, the Commissioned Corps will deploy to support states, territories and other countries in responding and recovering from disasters. In 2017, he was in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria assisting local public health departments in reopening health clinics and establish drinking water sources.

While attending Kennebunk High, he said his interest in studying civil engineering was inspired by his parents, Robert and Sandra Harvey of Kennebunk.

“My father is a mechanical engineer and served the United States during the Cold War working with the Department of the Navy in Kittery ensuring submarines operated safely,” Harvey sad. “My mother was an educator in Kennebunk who has positively impacted the lives of thousands of southern Maine children. Through majoring in civil engineering, I believed I could fulfill the wishes of my father to become an engineer, but also have a broader positive impact like my mother had.”

He said his physics, chemistry and biology classes, along with his algebra, geometry and calculus classes at Kennebunk High best prepared him for his engineering studies at the University of Maine in Orono.

“While at UMaine the teaching and relationship I formed with Dr. Dana Humphry, the then-civil engineering professor now dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Maine further prepared me for my career in public health,” Harvey said. “In addition to my parents and professors I was also guided and influenced by Norm Labbe, now superintendent at the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District, who I met while working during high school summer breaks painting fire hydrants at KKWW.”

Being awarded the Bloomberg Fellowship is both gratifying and a tremendous responsibility, Harvey said.

“At first I was amazed and extremely excited, and now feel empowered and obligated to train hard to utilize my skills to have a greater positive impact on the public health of American communities,” he said.

Based in Rockville, Maryland, where he lives with his wife, Jue Cheng, and daughter Renee, Harvey said his duties with the Indian Health Service are challenging.

“The Sanitation Facility Construction Program at the Indian Health Service works collaboratively with American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages to ensure access to safe drinking water and waste disposal systems. …” Harvey said.

As a Bloomberg Fellow, Harvey hopes to learn how to influence public health policy using a data-driven, evidenced-based approach on topics such as improving the dissemination of information about the quality of drinking water to the public following disasters and increasing access to water quality testing and technical assistance to private well owners.

“These are important issues for Maine as the Maine Center for Disease Control reports more than half of the homes in Maine get their drinking water from private wells,” he said. “In the near term, I intend to continue working in the Commissioned Corps, but in the future hope to transition into a leadership role in public health advocacy group or academia. I return to Maine yearly to visit with my family and friends. I also annually attend the University of Maine Alumni Association events in Washington, DC.”

For Harvey, the best thing about his job is working with likeminded Commissioned Corps officers focused on the mission of the U.S. Public Health Service  to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our nation.

“The hardest aspect of my work is dealing with the pace at which I can influence changes in a bureaucracy as large as the federal government,” he said.

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