Dr. Leah Devlin on Public Health Leadership

by Ed Baker, MD, MPH, MSc

This series of video interviews with public health leaders is related to topics discussed in columns in the JPHMP series, The Management Moment. These brief interviews provide tips on putting into practice information from these columns.

A public health leader I most admire is Dr. Leah Devlin, whom I met when she served as North Carolina State Health Director. She is an inspiring leader, spreading joy and wisdom to all who come in contact with her.

As a model of effective leadership practice, Dr. Devlin focuses her attention on the other person (not on herself). She positively impacts the way others feel, and as a result, others want to be in her presence and to absorb her positive energy. She is highly skilled in the fundamentals of leadership practice, which include listening to really understand1, asking great questions2, doing what she says she will do, networking, and inspiring others.

In this interview conducted a few years ago at the UNC School of Public Health, Dr. Devlin shares her insights on a range of leadership practices:

  • The Art of the Long View
  • Partnership Development and Relationship Building
  • Communication Skills: Communicating Your Vision and Why It Will Make a Difference
  • The “Inside and Outside Game” of Leadership
  • Teamwork and Team Building

I invite you to spend a few minutes with Dr. Leah Devlin as she shares her own leadership journey, including those role models and mentors who influenced her own development. She remains very active today as professor of the practice at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chair of the CDC Foundation Board, a board member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in other North Carolina Boards. Please feel free to share this interview with others who aspire to becoming a more effective public health leader.


  1. Baker EL, Dunne-Moses A, Calarco AJ, Gilkey R. Listening to Understand: A core Leadership Skill. J Public Health Practice Management. 25: 508-510. 2019.
  2. Baker EL, Asking Better Questions-A Core Leadership Skill. J Public Health Practice and Management. 26: 632-633. 2020.

Read other posts in this series:

Author Profile

Dr. Ed Baker
Dr. Edward L. Baker, currently serves as Adjunct Professor at UNC, Harvard and Indiana University schools of public health  Previously, he served as Director of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at UNC, Assistant Surgeon General in the U.S. Public Health Service, Director of CDC’s Public Heath Practice Program Office, Deputy Director of NIOSH, and Associate Professor of Occupational Health at Harvard.