BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET)— Kirby Kruger has been working for the North Dakota Department of Health since 1989. He’s currently the North Department of Health Disease Control & Forensic Pathology Section Chief. Growing up in New Salem, he said, was great, filled with people looking out for one another, especially for the kids. One of Kruger’s favorite activities was taking part in America’s pastime: baseball, mostly as a catcher. Regarding his baseball talent, Kruger described himself as “average.”

While baseball was an outlet, it seemed Kruger was destined to work in healthcare, as his father was a pharmacist and his mother was a nurse. However, there were others in Kruger’s life that influenced his eventual career decision. “I enjoyed science immensely. I think I had two, very good high school science teachers. So, I knew that when I graduated from high school, I wanted to do something in science. There was this opening at the health department for an AIDS educator, HIV/AIDS educator. So I applied for and got that position and that was sort of my introduction to public health,” Kruger said.

Kruger’s work has also included injury surveillance, sexually transmitted infections, as well as forensic pathology. “Disease control encompasses everything, you know, disease prevention and then preventing the serious outcomes from people that maybe already have an infection,” Kruger explained.

Of all the diseases he’s dealt with, Kruger said one continues to stand out. “Just from the magnitude, this last Coronavirus outbreak has probably been the most challenging,” Kruger said. While studying disease and trying to minimize or prevent its spread can mean numerous hours in the office or lab, Kruger does have time to relax and focus on what matters most. “I have a brand new granddaughter. She’s going to be a year old. My wife will come up with little projects that I can do. We are technically high school sweethearts. We started dating at the end of our senior year,” Kruger said.

Kruger said he enjoys his job and will stay in the profession as long as he’s able, pointing out what’s been essential to his success. “My door was always open and I was always open to: ‘Let’s see what this is about,’ ” Kruger said. Kruger also said though he’s often the one in front of the public, he’s surrounded by an outstanding team, helping keep North Dakota as safe and as healthy as possible every day.