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CDR Sarah-Blythe Ballard | Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service Skip to main content

CDR Sarah-Blythe Ballard

January 2023 Officer Spotlight

“Through my commission as a Public Health Service officer, I hope to leave the world a little better than it was when I arrived.”

CDR Sarah-Blythe Ballard’s first exposure to the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps was in 2014, serving as the medical coordinator for the International Medical Corps Ebola Rapid Response Initiative in Liberia. CDR Ballard was so impressed by the USPHS mission and the quality of its officers, serving critical functions providing high-quality care for healthcare workers, that she decided to commission as a Public Health Service officer herself.

During that 7-month deployment to Liberia, she led and provided over 1,000 hours of direct patient care at the 97-bed Kakata Ebola Treatment Unit, implemented a domestic helicopter air-evacuation system for Ebola-infected patients and biospecimens, and directed Hot Zone training for a cadre of USPHS Team 2 deployers arriving to support the USPHS’s Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU).

Currently serving in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the
U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) Resident Advisor to Kenya, CDR Ballard is seconded to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Working in tandem with the national malaria control program, the PMI team in Kenya develops and implements an annual $34 million Malaria Operational Plan, covering a range of activities including vector control, case management, operational research, surveillance, monitoring, and evaluation. CDR Ballard works among diverse stakeholders, including international partners, local institutions, and the private sector, to leverage funding and optimize malaria control efforts.

Prior to joining the USPHS Commissioned Corps as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer in 2017, CDR Ballard served as the Head of Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6’s Parasitology Department in Lima, Peru, overseeing multidisciplinary staff in three laboratories and 12 harsh field sites. Before that, she served as an operational flight surgeon at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, deploying as a medical officer in charge of 1,800 U.S. Marines (deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan) and 500 U.S. Navy Sailors (deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq), with detachments to Djibouti, El Salvador, Qatar, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific. Prior to those positions, CDR Ballard served as coordinator for the Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care Center at Naval Medical Center San Diego, overseeing medical care for Wounded Warriors returning from global operations. 

Being part of the USPHS Commissioned Corps has afforded many opportunities for CDR Ballard to serve global populations surrounding conditions that impact vulnerable populations.
Career highlights include leading a policy changing clinical trial demonstrating the superiority of high- over low-dose primaquine for the radical cure of vivax malaria in the Americas, contributing to the introduction of the world’s first routinely-recommended malaria vaccine in sub-Saharan Africa, and collaborating with partners to stand up an East African regional molecular laboratory hub to detect emerging mutations threatening global malaria control efforts. She also enjoys mentoring junior Public Health Service officers and residents in the CDC’s Field Epidemiology Training Program in Kenya, the sister program of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service. 

In October 2022, CDR Ballard had the privilege of deploying to Operation Bushmaster, an annual exercise conducted by the Uniformed Services University (USU). Operation Bushmaster simulates a high-paced deployment in cold, austere environments where uniformed medical and nursing students conduct medical support for combat operations. As a member of the USU faculty team, she precepts students as they track disease/non-battle injuries, investigate disease outbreaks, provide technical assistance for public health problems in local communities, make public health recommendations, and provide care while responding to ethical challenges, mortar attacks, and mass-casualty events. CDR Ballard said that it was rewarding to see students come together to work as a team to accomplish mission. CDR Ballard had high praise for the students, saying “I would be proud to serve downrange with these young leaders.”       

Born in Misawa, Japan, CDR Sarah-Blythe Ballard received her bachelor’s degree (in biochemistry and molecular biology) from Agnes Scott College, medical degree from Emory University, master’s degree (in public health), and PhD (in global disease epidemiology and control), and completed her residency at Johns Hopkins.

She is a Fulbrighter, NIH Fogarty Global Health Fellow, and Harvard Global Health Effectiveness scholar, holding medical board certifications in Preventive Medicine and Aerospace Medicine, and certificates in Tropical Medicine, Injury Prevention, and Health Finance from Johns Hopkins.  

CDR Ballard believes being a Public Health Service officer means that she has the privilege and responsibility of being a servant-leader in public health, while constantly striving toward the greater good that unites us as global citizens.

When asked why she serves, CDR Ballard proclaims, “My name is CDR Sarah-Blythe Ballard, and YOU are #WhyIServe.

She then adds, “Through my commission as a Public Health Service officer, I hope to leave the world a little better than it was when I arrived. For my fellow officers aiming to do the same, there is potential for greater impact if we work together.”

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