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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Kristi Gephart, assistant director of vital records, enjoys her job with the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.

Sunday, June 24, 2018 1:00 am

Keeping track of your vital records

When you need documentation, she helps find it

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Profile

Name: Kristi Gephart

Age: 41

Job title: Assistant director, vital records, Fort Wayne Allen County Department of Health

Background: Been with the health department 17 years, starting as a window clerk in vital records, and helping with mail and other tasks, eventually including paternity affidavits and filing death records; graduate of Wayne High School, associate degree from Indiana Wesleyan University

For most individuals who are born or die in Allen County, chances are their names cross Kristi Gephart's desk.

Gephart is assistant director in the vital records division of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health. She's responsible for reviewing records and documents and helping maintain the information electronically.

With an associate degree in business from Indiana Wesleyan University, Gephart finds the public health field just as fulfilling as working in a corporate environment might be.

Gephart attributes that partly to the colleagues she has been surrounded with working downtown in Citizens Square for the health department.

From the time she started 17 years ago as a clerk in vital records, Gephart said “it was just a really good environment.”

She and others who work in vital records are responsible for checking and storing thousands of records.

Allen County has about 4,500 deaths each year and typically more than 7,000 births, Gephart said. The health department also keeps tab on public health concerns, such as influenza and tuberculosis.

The records kept in Gephart's division include the kind people need to conduct basic business in life, such as opening or closing bank accounts or getting a driver's license.

“They need these documents for jobs, for travel, for emergency situations ... opening and closing bank accounts,” Gephart said.

With the move toward “Real IDs,” which will be necessary for airline travel and more difficult to replicate and use fraudulently, demand for birth records from the health department is up.

Even if people don't live in Allen County, if they are born or die here, the local health department will have the birth or death certificate. The nature of the work requires assisting people from various backgrounds and ethnicities. 

Occasionally, there are language barriers, although Gephart said her supervisor speaks Spanish. Vital records staff find a way to accommodate everyone who shows up in the office and facilitate their requests.

“We definitely see our share of different languages,” Gephart said. “Usually we're just always able to work through that.”

If they don't speak English well, people who need information or documents from vital records often bring a relative, friend or someone else who can help translate.

Her boss says Gephart exceeds expectations “in all ways possible.”

“Kristi does so many behind-the-scenes tasks that most people will never have a clue how much time she spends throughout her day communicating and achieving what is necessary to complete her workload,” said Sarah Castillo, vital records division director. “She promotes teamwork and inspires to bring out the best in her co-workers and those she interacts with on a daily basis.”

Megan Tinkel, director of communications for the health department, recalls one Sunday when Gephart and the division director came to the office. It was an emergency situation based on respecting a family's religious beliefs, and they needed a death certificate to be processed. One reason Tinkel recalls the day is because it was snowing. 

“That's something that people don't hear about,” she said.

It also reflects an attitude in vital records about public service.

“There's not one person who ever says, 'Oh, that's not my job,'” Tinkel said.

It's a job Gephart expects to hang onto – at least for the foreseeable future – even though she is open to opportunities.

“I'm very happy with my job and where we're at,” Gephart said. “I guess I don't have any specific career changes in mind other than doing what I do and coming to work every day.”

lisagreen@jg.net