Employee Spotlight: Steve Evener

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Steve Evener is our March Employee Spotlight. Steve has been with Karna for just over a year, serving as a Public Health Analyst. He has made significant contributions to the organization and our clients over the past year. He recently received the Outstanding Publication Award for two publications on the effectiveness of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and preferences for shigellosis-related health promotion. We’ve seen first-hand what he can do on a public health project, but we have not seen him break out his Janet Jackson dance moves. Let’s learn a little more about our musician/dancer/analyst.

Q: What is your position and what do you do? 

I am a Public Health Analyst at Karna, and I was hired to fill a Study Coordinator role for the SUPERNOVA surveillance platform on the Enhanced Surveillance Team as part of the Epi Task Force of CDC’s Novel Coronavirus 2019 Emergency Response efforts. SUPERNOVA (Surveillance Platform for Enteric and Respiratory iNfectious Organisms in the Veterans Affairs Population) is a passive and active surveillance platform for acute gastroenteritis and acute respiratory illness with a focus on COVID-19 among patients admitted to one of five Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. SUPERNOVA collected medical chart data, respiratory and blood specimens, and vaccination data to assess SARS-CoV-2 vaccine effectiveness among hospitalized adult veterans. I was responsible for communicating with partner sites, creating presentations for bi-weekly meetings, summarizing and presenting enrollment and laboratory data, overseeing monthly respiratory and blood specimen shipments to CDC, creating and managing databases storing epi and lab data, and creating and updating Power Business Intelligence dashboards and reports. The acute respiratory illness arm of SUPERNOVA concluded enrollment on December 17, 2021, and I have joined the Vaccine Impact and Breakthrough Surveillance Unit on the Surveillance and Analytics Team as of February 7, 2022. I am currently creating Power BI dashboards of vaccination data among 38 reporting state and local health departments. 

Q: What has been your favorite project at Karna and why? 

I have only had the opportunity to work on one project as a Karna employee, so by default, my favorite is the SUPERNOVA surveillance platform.  

Q: What have you gained from working at Karna?  

Karna has introduced me to a new type of disease and has given me hands-on experience with conducting epidemiologic studies, quantitative data management, and project management. Before joining Karna, my work focused on behavior and sexual health among sexual and gender minorities. After joining Karna, I now have experience with epidemiology and respiratory illnesses, creating and managing multiple databases, understanding and summarizing respiratory and blood specimen results, conducting quantitative analyses, and using SAS; the latter two being professional goals of mine since earning my Masters of Public Health. Together, these experiences have earned me three co-author publications in 2021.  

And of course, I was awarded with the Outstanding Publication Award for 2021!  

Q: What do you do to stay fit/healthy? 

I would like to say that I have a routine, but I don’t. I used to run 5 miles a day and participate in half marathons. I still run but I no longer run 5 miles or participate in any races. I do try to run during the week with my dog, a black lab named Penny, but we don’t have a set routine. I also used to go to the gym, but like most people, COVID-19 stopped that and I haven’t been back…yet. 

Q: Do you have a tip for coping with stress?  

It depends on what I’m stressed about. Running started out as “therapy sessions” for me and is probably my first go to, but I also find sitting quietly with my thoughts to be helpful. And of course, I’m human and give in to some of my unhealthy vices. 

Q: Where is your hometown? 

I was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and grew up in Clearwater, Florida. 

Q: What did you want to be growing up? 

Music has always been a big part of my life and I was in band throughout middle school and high school. Music was my first major when I attended college, but I really wanted to be a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. I used to watch VHS tapes of her music videos to learn her dance routines. “If” was the first routine I learned and was able to perform in front of an audience. I later moved to Orlando, Florida, with hopes of becoming a dancer at Walt Disney World after watching a performance by the Explosion dancers at Downtown Disney. 

Q: You are happiest when? 

I’m happiest during three events: spending time with the love of my life, relaxing with my dog, and listening to/watching anything about Janet Jackson (mostly attending her concerts). 

Q: What is something most people do not know about you?  

I am a very low-tech person. I still write checks and I would give up my smartphone to return to using a landline. I don’t download/use apps and the only social media account I have is LinkedIn, which I don’t use often. 

Q: Anything you would like to add or say to help your colleagues and clients know you a little better?  

I am the biggest Janet Jackson fan most people have ever met. I have been to every concert tour, including her Vegas residency, since 1998’s The Velvet Rope Tour. My first tattoo is the Sankofa symbol from that album and it is also the same tattoo she has on her right wrist. I know many of her iconic dance routines and can sometimes be caught stopping to dance them while out running. I won a Halloween costume contest dressed as Janet from the Rhythm Nation era while I was an ORISE Fellow in the Division of STD Prevention at CDC. It makes my heart smile when people think of me when they hear her music or when she comes up in conversation. I also quote The Golden Girls and Steel Magnolias in everyday conversations. Most of the time the people who are part of those conversations have no idea where the quotes come from. 

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