Deb Kiker, system director for Occupational Health & Wellness for Central Maine Healthcare. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Deb Kiker remembers meeting with a supervisor in Central Maine Medical Center’s human resources department last spring to talk about the coronavirus that was just starting to spread around the state and country.

“We’ll talk again in a couple of weeks, when this is all over,” the supervisor said.

They never had time for that talk. The outbreak rapidly grew into a pandemic that she must cope with on a daily basis. As the medical center’s system director of occupational health and wellness, she’s in charge of overseeing the well-being of about 3,000 employees – in effect, Kiker takes care of the people who take care of the community.

“My patients are the staff,” said Kiker, 62, who lives in Topsham with her husband.

Kiker is “talking us off the ledge when we get too worried about it,” said Erin Guay, executive director of Healthy Androscoggin, an offshoot of Central Maine Health Care. Guay said Kiker keeps track of the facts behind the coronavirus, has a calming personality and radiates a sense of personal caring while trying to make sure the virus doesn’t spread among the hospital staff, a critical factor during a pandemic.

“I work in public health, so I like how she’s always looking at the science,” Guay said. “And she’s also able to talk about your family – she’s just one of those approachable people.”

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Kiker said she’s been contacted by Maine companies for advice on how to reduce the risk of infection among their employees, when it might be safe to reopen offices and how to do that. Kiker said it’s gratifying to share what she’s learned beyond the hospital.

“It allowed us to move that learning out into the community,” she said.

Kiker always has to think ahead as well, to issues such as how to distribute a vaccine when it becomes available.

“It’s constantly tweaking what we know,” she said.

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