He was raised on an orchard in the heart of Orem. He spent much of his time growing up outside, working in the fruit trees. Now, he lives in his parents’ old home, still enjoying Orem, even as the population has swelled and orchards have disappeared.
Growing up, he was interested in science and studied environmental health science as a student at BYU.
“I liked learning how the world worked and finding ways to use that knowledge to help solve problems,” he says.
After earning a master’s degree in public administration, Ralph started working for the Utah County Health Department with that same dedication to finding solutions to make the community safer and healthier. Five years ago, he was named executive director of the Utah County Health Department, overseeing a group of civil servants dedicated to the wide-reaching and overall health of the Utah County population.
No big deal. Except that in 2020, that is a very, very big deal.
“Public health is a fascinating field,” Ralph says. “One minute, you’re dealing with Seoul Disease — a hantavirus usually found in pet rats — and the next, you’re dealing with a hazardous waste situation.”
Lately, of course, much of Ralph’s time is spent maximizing the efforts of his staff to coordinate with local civic and educational leaders to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Clearly, it’s been a very, very busy time,” Ralph says of the last six months.
Specifically, the Utah County Health Department is working to carefully maximize epidemiology efforts, investigate and trace cases to supply the best information and strategy measures.
Even as Covid-19 continues to drive the headlines of the day, the Utah County Health Department soldiers on in its less noticeable responsibilities, including inspections, mosquito abatement, immunizations and waste management. In fact, the return to school not only concerns Ralph about what it might mean for Covid-19 transmission, but also for the back log of required immunizations that will eventually stream in the doors of the Utah County Health & Justice Building.
“We are finding creative solutions to this unusual time,” Ralph says. “The real heroes are the staff. They are the ones really doing the work and I’m proud to work with them.”
Moving forward, Ralph is optimistic that Utah Valley residents will settle into some level of a “new normal” and that his department will be part of that solution.
“I am optimistic for the future that there will be remedies and treatments found,” he says. “Obviously, we feel sorry for those who have lost loved ones and for others who have suffered because of this terrible virus. We sympathize and have empathy for them. Public health is population health, but without ever forgetting the individual.”