New job takes woman from classroom to Kabul

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. After years of teaching in a classroom, Lisa Bryde now works as a global health instructional designer and trainer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. After years of teaching in a classroom, Lisa Bryde now works as a global health instructional designer and trainer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Lisa Bryde didn't like to travel.

Prior to July, the most exotic place the Gwinnett resident had visited was Jamaica, where a night on the town outside the resort where she was staying turned Bryde's view of traveling even more sour.

"This is where I saw the poverty, people begging on the streets and encountered men coming out from behind store fronts to try to sell us drugs," she said. "They were very aggressive and actually believed that because we were Americans, we owed it to them to buy their goods."

That experience, Bryde said, made her realize how vulnerable she was in a foreign country.

"After that trip I said I would never leave U.S. soil," she remembered.

Never say never, as the old saying goes, just might apply in Bryde's situation.

After 12 years working in the field of education, particularly instructional design, in what she considered "safe and comfortable" jobs, Bryde's position in online education was eliminated this past January.

"Who would have ever thought?" she said. "(Education) was always the economy-proof job."

Worried, angry and a little surprised, Bryde immediately began networking, sending out resumes and job searching on the Internet.

"I needed to find another job as quickly as possible, not just for financial reasons," she said, "but also because I am a 'Type A' personality and constantly need to be doing something."

After three months of searching, Bryde was contacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had come across one of the resumes she had posted online. The CDC offered her a position as global health instructional designer and trainer, a job that entailed designing and developing the curriculum for public health training programs in countries with fragile or no public health infrastructure. This position meant traveling overseas every three to four months for three to four weeks.

"My first thought was, 'You're kidding me,'" Bryde remembered. "I don't have a background in public health. Science bores me to death."

There was also the traveling aspect.

Another mark against taking the job? Bryde's family was against it.

"My family was initially against me taking this position because the regions I would be responsible for, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are regions where civil strife and Taliban activities exist," she said. "They were worried about personal security, not to mention being away from home for long periods of time."

Bryde admitted that, for what appeared to be no logical reason, she accepted the position.

"Something just kept tugging at me," she said. "I think maybe it was the appeal of working with some of the most intelligent people in the world and learning something new."

After taking the job, Bryde's first assignment abroad was training a rapid response team in Afghanistan. She spent three weeks in late July and early August working with doctors in Kabul.

"I went kicking and screaming," she said. "I didn't want to go. I really started to realize then, 'What have I gotten myself into?' I was always aware there was a whole world out there, but I was never interested in it."

Despite her misgivings before going, Bryde said she returned a changed person.

"It was an unbelievably humbling experience and just to see what the military is doing over there and the good they're doing," she said. "The media doesn't tell you that."

Bryde will return to Kabul in January to complete the second part of the training for the area's rapid response team.

"This has been the biggest challenge I think I've ever faced. To have done this at 45, this would have been great maybe at 25, but at 45, to take on a job that deals with something that is so out of my element," she said. "It really has challenged me to come out of my comfort zone and I sometimes think that's why I didn't walk away from this job when everybody told me to and my brain told me to."

As for her family's concerns, Bryde said they have grown more accustomed to the duties her job entails.

"I know they are still concerned and worry when I am working in these countries," she said, "but I believe they see how passionate I am about this job. I feel like the work we do is very important and is truly helping to improve health systems in regions that are in dire need of our assistance.

"I think I've learned that sometimes your best gifts come in really badly wrapped packages," she said, "and this was a badly wrapped package."