Dr. Amy Action is now the Director of Ohio’s Department of Health, but for the first 18 years of her life, Action bounced from home to home, even living in a tent one winter.
Now Action is using her experiences as inspiration to address the coronavirus head-on, in addition to her medical degree and master’s in public health.
“I think because of the childhood I had,” she told TIME via video chat from the Ohio Statehouse, “that I’m at my best during a crisis.”
Taking Measures to Prevent the Worst
Back in March and April, before the U.S had experienced the full extent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Action took measures to prevent a disaster in Ohio.
On April 7, she compared preventative COVID safety measures to a hurricane: “You’re winning the war to protect our scarce resources and keeping our hospitals being able to deal with this. The second we let our foot off the gas, the second we are no longer that category 3 hurricane, it can pick up wind again and we can be a category 5.”
Action’s deliberate preventative measures in the winter and early spring are believed to have saved countless lives in Ohio. Georgia, for example, has a smaller population size than Ohio but reported nearly double the number of confirmed cases and deaths in the spring.
High-Risk Patients Thank Dr. Action for Her Foresight
Robyn Petras is just one or many Ohio residents who credit Action for keeping COVID-19 under control in Ohio. Petras, a 53-year-old with Cystic Fibrosis, a dangerous lung disease that affects respiratory function, tested positive for coronavirus on March 24. She says the procedures and preventions implemented by Action helped to save her life.
“Her sincere and calming presence, mixed with her compassion and medical knowledge gave me comfort and courage to take the virus head on,” Petras says of Acton. “I absolutely credit them for their quick and proactive action for not only saving my life, but the lives of my family and friends,” she adds of Action and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
A United Front
Action has worked closely with Governor DeWine around-the-clock since the pandemic began to address the ever-evolving consequences and threat levels of COVID-19. She wakes long before the sun rises to field calls from the governor, prepare for press briefings, communicate with health administrators and other state and local health officials, and work in Ohio’s emergency operations center.
“I used to say if aliens invaded us, it would be a blessing. We’d all finally be on the same team. We’d have this common enemy—well that is now,” she argues. “I’m an ordinary person. So if I can be doing something extraordinary seeming, every one of you can.”