John Auerbach on Health Agency 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.

As the COVID-19 pandemic expands across the nation, public health leaders are faced with unprecedented challenges. In this context, wise and experienced health agency leadership is more vital now than before.

John Auerbach, who has served in leadership positions at the local, state (1), and national levels, embodies the wisdom needed in this challenging time. In this 2017 interview (conducted as part of research into the factors that contribute to the success of state health officials (2,3)), Auerbach shared with me his cogent insights related to public health leadership practice which apply not only at the state level but are also broadly applicable at all levels of our nation’s public health system today.

In this interview, John Auerbach shares insights related to:

  • Critical success factors for leadership in a public health agency
  • Maintaining a long-term perspective while dealing with day-to-day crises
  • The value of a support system for those in leadership positions
  • The concept of the “Chief Health Strategist”
  • The need to think ahead about future career options before you are forced to do so.

Mr. Auerbach currently serves as the President and CEO of the Trust for America’s Health and on the Board of the De Beaumont Foundation. In these and other settings, he continues to provide wise and well-seasoned leadership to the public health enterprise. I invite you to consider his words of wisdom and to relate them to the leadership challenges you face today.


  1. Auerbach J. Lessons From the Front Line: The Massachusetts Experience of the Role of Public Health in Health Care Reform. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2013. 19 (5). 488-491.
  2. Halverson P, Castrucci BC, Moffatt S, Hancock S, Boedigheimer SF, Baker EL. State Health Officials-Defining Success and Identifying Critical Success Factors. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2017. 23 (2), 192-194.
  3. Baker EL, Boedigheimer SF, Moffatt S, Altman D, Castrucci BC, Halverson PK. Preventing Leaser Derailment- A Strategic Imperative for Public Health Agencies. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2018. 24 (4), 400-403.

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.