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Marquette University Alumni Association

College of Nursing Recipients

Young Alumnus of the Year Award

Derek T. EhrhardtDEREK T. EHRHARDT, NURS '96
Decatur, Ga.

Derek has one short-term plan: help achieve global polio eradication. As a commander in the United States Public Health Service and nurse epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he works tirelessly to achieve this goal.

Derek leads a team of medical officers and epidemiologists hoping to improve immunization rates for measles, rubella and polio in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Sudan.

“I can’t think of a better way to use my education than to save disenfranchised children and families from the horrors of a vaccine-preventable disease,” he says.

His work takes him around the world to provide technical support to the World Health Organization and UNICEF country offices and ministries of health. He also mentors new staff members, strengthens and maintains partnerships, and empowers local governments.

“Marquette provided a foundation of independent thought and the ability to trust in myself to take risks. One of my Marquette mentors said to me, “Remember, this bachelor’s is just your first degree.’ After that, I never looked back and have been saying YES to incredible professional challenges.”

Derek has served as a field coordinator for the Red Cross’ response to Hurricane Katrina and an epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC, and he implemented an emergency services and disaster response project in Palestinian territories and emergency room training in Kosovo. He has presented to federal officials in Washington D.C., about polio eradication.

Derek served as Nursing Alumni Association officer from 1994–99. He was presented the Dr. Olsen Caring Award from the College of Nursing in 1996.

Hometown: Camden, Ohio
Favorite quote: “Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” — Winston Churchill
Dream dinner guest: “Abstract answer (or future): myself on my death bed. The perspective would be nice.”
“A little less abstract answer: I posed this question to my 3-year-old daughter, and she sweetly looked at me and said, “Do you want to have dinner with me?” So I guess that’s the answer.
“True answer: Bill Murray, simply because I don’t think we can laugh enough.”
Marquette faculty member who had an impact: “Terry Tobin, Nurs ’60. Terry has been a lifelong mentor and friend. Her encouragement to be adventurous in life and learning from her public health experience led me down the path I'm on. Without her, I would not have known the opportunities I've explored.”
Favorite Marquette memory: “Marching down Wisconsin Avenue after we beat Kentucky to reach the Final Four.”
Career he aspired to in grade school: “I think I wanted to be a football player. Why? Because I didn’t have the good sense at the time to understand the physical risks and my genetic limitations.”
Marquette legacy: “My legacy at Marquette would be two people: Greg Olsen and Terry Tobin. Though not blood relatives, they are certainly family.”
Most influential person: “Just one person? That’s not fair. OK — after my mom, dad, wife and daughter — the most influential person in my life has been my mentor and friend and Marquette professor Terry Tobin. Terry was instrumental in my choice to move to emergency nursing, to pursue a master’s degree in public health, to apply to the Epidemic Intelligence Service at CDC. Essentially has guided me on my career path. Without her in my life, I probably wouldn’t have pursued this exciting line of work.”