State Health Officials–Defining Success and Identifying Critical Success Factors

by Edward Baker, MD, MPH, MSc


SHO-Case studyDrawing upon the popular column published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, Management Moments with Public Health Leaders is a new series appearing bimonthly on JPHMP Direct and will consist of video interviews with authors appearing in the column.

Little is known about the personal and professional characteristics or organizational factors that make state health officials successful. If these characteristics and factors could be identified, they could be shared with gubernatorial transition teams, state boards of health, or those who are selected to fill these positions to increase the likelihood of successful performance of the individuals selected and the health departments they lead; prevent or mitigate career derailment; and improve the process of selecting and preparing SHOs. 

To fill this gap in public health leadership research, the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the de Beaumont Foundation partnered to enhance our understanding of some of these critical factors, the details of which were outlined in a recent Management Moments column in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice entitled State Health OfficialsDefining Success and Identifying Critical Success Factors

In the State Health Officials Career Achievement and Sustainability Evaluation (SHO-Case) Study, Dr. Ed Baker and Dr. Hugh Tilson interviewed current and former SHOs to learn about their individual experiences as health leaders. In the following video, experienced state health officials share insight about what it means to be a successful SHO, including:

  • Personal and leadership attributes;
  • Selection processes through which SHOs are appointed;
  • Preparation they receive for the job;
  • Context in which they function(ed);
  • Level of success achieved; and
  • Approaches they’ve taken as SHOs to build effective leadership teams and compensate for their own gaps in knowledge and skills.

Featured SHOs in the video include John Auerbach (Massachusetts), Nicole Alexander-Scott (Rhode Island), Georges Benjamin (Maryland), Leah Devlin (North Carolina), Jeff Engel (North Carolina), Paul Halverson (Arkansas), Bob Harmon (Missouri), Douglas Lloyd (Connecticut), John Lumpkin (Illinois), Judy Monroe (Indiana), and Mary Selecky (Washington).

Read the latest from Management Moments in the most recent issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice:

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Check out this video where experienced state health officials share insight about what it means to be a successful SHO. @deBeaumontFndtn @ASTHO @FSPH_IUPUI ‏@HealthyAmerica1 @RIHealth @GeorgesBenjami7 @PublicHealth @PKHalver @jrlumpkin @DrJudyMonroe @WA_DeptofHealth https://wp.me/p7l72S-45m 

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What does it take to be a successful state health official? Dr. Ed Baker and Dr. Hugh Tilson went to the source to learn more from leaders who’ve held SHO positions, including John Auerbach, Nicole Alexander-Scott, Georges Benjamin, Leah Devlin, Jeff Engel, Paul Halverson, Bob Harmon, Douglas Lloyd, John Lumpkin, Judy Monroe, and Mary Selecky. Check out the video: https://lnkd.in/gxTUh9j.


Ed Baker, MD, MPH, MSc

Dr. Edward L. Baker, a former Assistant Surgeon General in the US Public Health Service and former Director of CDC’s Public Health Practice Program Office, currently serves as Adjunct Professor in Health Policy and Management at UNC. He teaches a course on the theory and practice of leadership in the School of Public Health’s DrPH program and an online course on Designing and Managing Public Health Information Systems through the Public Health Institute in Atlanta. [Full bio.]

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