Today’s Remarkable Woman is someone who has faced the pandemic head-on — the Director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, Renae Moch, as we continue to celebrate Remarkable Women in our area.
Moch stepped into the director role in May of 2013 after living in Kansas City with her family.
Since taking on the position as director, she has helped the department find funding in more ways than one, also providing more opportunity to those who don’t have direct access to everyday healthcare.
“One of my goals has been to try to collaborate with other health partners across the entire city and organizations, nonprofits, trying to get us more visible,” explained Moch.
Visible they became. Once the pandemic arrived, public health officials were thrown to the forefront of contact tracing, testing, and now, vaccinations.
Moch says while you always try and prepare for the day a pandemic comes, you’re never truly prepared.
“I was scared. I was super scared for my staff. I didn’t want any of them to get sick. I wanted to make sure that nobody else got sick in the process, my staff plus the people that were living in this facility. And that was a really scary time and there were tears. There were tears shed. Not in front of people but privately. Like holy cow, this is getting super real,” shared Moch.
As numbers climbed in Burleigh County, the focus shifted from public education to mitigation plans.
And as things like the mask mandate were put into place, she became the target for backlash.
“Phone calls. I would get email messages, letters, all sorts of communication relating to me being a tyrant or a nazi or trying to push forward my ‘agenda,'” explained Moch.
For all those messages, she has a folder full of cards, emails and letters thanking her for her work.
“That’s why I am doing what I am doing. That’s why I love my job. Because I know there are good people that will support the efforts of local public health and all that we’re doing for this community,” shared Moch.
She led not only her staff but an entire task force to tackle COVID-19 in Burleigh and Morton Counties, working side by side with people like the mayor.
“Don’t know if I worked side by side with her because I couldn’t keep up. She was putting in 18, 20 hour days at times. And with her commitments on having to deal with meetings with the state and with the city and what we were doing and our testing events, it was phenomenal,” shared Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken.
And while pulling out all her tools to tackle the goal of lowering the numbers, she also had to focus on the mental health aspect and other issues that went hand in hand with the pandemic.
“Working with the county, working with the city, working with the state and working with the feds on how all the pieces come together. We were very fortunate to have the right person in the right position at the right time,” explained Bakken.
Through it all still managing to be a mother and wife at the same time.
“I think when I went through that really difficult time of not being the most popular person in the community, they were there to support me through all of that. So I really am grateful for that,” shared Moch.
Moch says she often goes back and reads through those thank you cards on tough days as a reminder of why she does what she does.