Meet Nicole Anjeski, Cortland County’s New Public Health Director

Nicole Anjeski. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith/The Cortland Voice).

Nicole Anjeski has been part of the Cortland County Public Health Department for the past 11 years, as she gradually went up the ranks of the department.

Anjeski is now the new public health director, which county legislators unanimously approved her appointment on Nov. 18 to that position.

Anjeski replaces Lisa Perfetti, who was the public health director for the past year-and-a-half. Anjeski was the deputy health director from December 2020 to November of this year, and now has Perfetti as her deputy health director.

“Lisa is a true health professional, in public health and as a healthcare professional,” Anjeski said. “She took the reins when it needed to be taken, and did an excellent job. She kept the staff together.”

Prior to her time in public health, Anjeski was a stay-at-home mother. She graduated from McGraw High School in 1998. Before studying at SUNY Cortland, Anjeski received an associate’s degree in liberal arts at Tompkins Cortland Community College in 2008.

When she enrolled at SUNY Cortland, she considered herself a “non-traditional student.” Anjeski didn’t start college right after she graduated from high school, which is why she considers herself a non-traditional student.

Anjeski had an interest in going into some sort of health professional position, but “wasn’t sure if she wanted to do clinical or community health.”

“I took an intro to community health course (at SUNY Cortland) and it was amazing,” she said. “It covered a lot of different facets of health, without the clinical side of it.”

Anjeski’s time with the county health department goes back to 2010. While attending SUNY Cortland in 2010, she worked as an intern for the department. Shortly thereafter in the same year, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree of science with a concentration in community health.

Anjeski’s time with the county health department 

A few months after graduating from SUNY Cortland, Anjeski became a public health educator in the county health department. She held that position until 2017. In between her time in the position, Anjeski received her master’s degree in science at SUNY Cortland in 2013.

From 2017 to 2020, Anjeski worked as a public health programs manager. She earned a second master’s degree in 2018, this time at SUNY Albany for public health.

After being the deputy health director less than a year, Anjeski takes the lead director position head-on.

“I love it, and that’s how it’s been for the last 11 years,” she said.

Anjeski worked on a variety of grants as a public health educator, including one for cancer services and another known as Healthy Neighborhoods. The Healthy Neighborhoods grant specifically focuses on making healthier homes in the county. The rundown of the grants includes checking homes to see if there are working smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector, child safety items, fire extinguishers and more.

Anjeski, who to this day still oversees the grant process, noted that about 300 homes per year participate in the Healthy Neighborhoods program. The grant program provides around $116,000 every year, Anjeski added.

As current grants continue and new grants come in, Anjeski said the health department “continues to write those grants (applications) each time they come up.”

Anjeski mentioned that public health education is “100% grant funded.”

“Grants (for public health) can be really competitive,” she said. “It’s hard for people to understand that it can be competitive, especially when money is not there for public health.”

Anjeski’s vision for the health department

As Anjeski becomes acclimated in her new position, she hopes to continue to push forward the services that the county health department provides. This includes the children with special needs program, the environmental health program and more.

Anjeski is also looking to collaborate with agencies throughout the county, including the Seven Valleys Health Coalition, Cortland Area Communities That Care, programs that involve mental health services and others.

In terms of health systems in the county, Anjeski wants to continue to partner with Guthrie, Cayuga Medical Associates and Family Health Network.

More importantly, Anjeski noted that the county health department’s “main focus” is the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The focus is to get people who are hesitant to get the vaccine to get vaccinated,” she said. “It’s really important for them to do that.

Anjeski added, “We are still in the pandemic. This virus has not gone away. Get tested, get vaccinated. If you’re sick, please stay home.”

“Even though we’re in a pandemic, we hope our health outcomes increase and we can also increase the health equity across the country,” she said.