• 50°

Spirit of Rowan: Alyssa Harris finds her dream job at Rowan Health Department

If Nina Oliver could have cloned Alyssa Harris before moving on from the Rowan County Health Department, she would have. Maybe a few times.

“She’s certainly an excellent public health advocate,” said Oliver, the county’s former health director. “She understands the needs of today but also focuses on building for the future. And she is very good at what she does. … She’s an excellent addition to the health department.”

Likewise, Krista Woolly, executive director of the Community Care Clinic, says Harris is “professional, pleasant and very knowledgeable about all things public health”

“She loves her community and is proud to be a Rowan County native,” Woolly said. “I am super proud of her and know that she has an exciting future ahead of her.”

So, it made sense when the Rowan County Board of Health elevated Harris to the interim health director position when Oliver moved on to a new job in Carteret County.

Before taking on the interim director job, Harris, 31, worked as community health manager, executive director of Health Rowan and a public health educator for the department. She’s also worked for the Cabarrus Health Alliance. Harris says working in public health is her dream job.

“I am one of those very rare, very blessed people who get to do what I want to do everyday,” she said prior to being named interim director.

She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in health promotion, education and behavior from the University of South Carolina. She wasn’t born in Rowan County, but she got here as quick as possible. Born on a Navy base in Charleston, South Carolina, she lived in Connecticut before her dad retired from the military and the family moved to Rockwell.

She attended Erwin Middle School and was among the first classes to graduate from Gray Stone Day School.

She went into college with her focus set on becoming a doctor, but she encountered a hurdle in the fact that she wasn’t fond of dealing with blood.

So, she shifted elsewhere in the medical field, graduating with a degree in psychology and scoring a research job in Columbia, South Carolina, where close friend Erin Howard was working on a graduate degree at the University of South Carolina.

Before she also attended the University of South Carolina for a graduate degree, her research job worked on projects that involved connecting diseases to diets. After Harris landed in Cabarrus County and worked on projects that involved the Healthy Cabarrus organization, people in Rowan County started asking about starting a similar program for Rowan. And Harris carved out time in her schedule to lead the project.

Today, dealing with COVID-19 takes up just about all of her time — from logistics of vaccinations to helping communicate information. She still remembers the first few months of the virus vividly, including when she was sitting in a management class and Cabarrus County announced its first case.

“Life as we know it was about to stop,” Harris said.

Looking back, she was surprised that masks became a political battle and wishes that Rowan County commissioners had taken a bigger stand in support of mask-wearing.

Harris and her husband, Phillip, live in the Faith area and attend St. John’s Lutheran Church. COVID-19 has changed so much about activities people enjoy, but Harris said she and her husband enjoy fishing, spending time on the lake with friends and exploring good places to eat. She also likes hiking, yoga, baking and swing dancing. Lately, though, she spends a lot of time decompressing from busy work days and binge-watching TV shows with her husband.

Comments

Local

Kiwanis Pankcake Festival serves thousands of flapjacks for charity

Coronavirus

Rowan remains in state’s middle, yellow tier for COVID-19 community spread

Crime

Blotter: Man faces sexual exploitation charge for images on Instagram

News

Defendant convicted in attempted murder case on the run after fleeing from trial

Business

Downtown Gateway Building to be renamed for late Paul Fisher

Coronavirus

Rowan County COVID-19 data for April 15

Local

Rep. Warren’s bill would prohibit parking in electric vehicle charging stations

Local

Historic Preservation Commission approves Integro Technologies expansion, Paint the Pavement project

Education

Faith Academy, RSS will negotiate over what goes, stays in elementary school

Crime

Teacher killed in Alamance County shootout with Mexican drug cartel

Coronavirus

Bill would give more tax breaks on COVID-19 loans

Nation/World

No response as divers knock on capsized ship’s hull

Local

Quotes of the week

Crime

Blotter: Man found on church property with litany of drugs

Crime

Man charged in connection to 2019 overdose death

Business

‘It’s our big time’: Salisbury Farmers Market reopens Saturday

Education

Schools capital funding still frozen as RSS sends local budget to county

Business

Shields, Cheerwine Festival receive N.C. Main Street Awards

Kannapolis

Duke University launches kidney disease study in Kannapolis for people of African descent

Education

Horizons Unlimited will hold in-person summer camps

Education

Education briefs: Catawba planning for more in-person activities, free summer school tuition

Coronavirus

County’s full COVID-19 vaccinations top 22,600

High School

High school golf: With Merrell, Mustangs back on top

Local

Spencer investigating rat problem on South Iredell Street