Dr. Bill Roper Discusses Best Practices in Leadership

This entry is part 8 of 16 in the series Management Moments

by Ed Baker, MD, MPH

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 I reflect on my own process of learning about the practice of leadership in public health, I’m drawn to a few role models and mentors whose approaches I sought to emulate. Dr. Bill Roper is among those very few public health leaders at the top of my list of seminal sources of influence and inspiration. He and I first met on March 1, 1990, when he became CDC director; I had the distinct privilege and pleasure of reporting directly to him and learning from him throughout his tenure as CDC director. Several years later, he recruited me to join him at the University of North Carolina (UNC) when he was serving as Dean of the UNC School of Public Health. The interview that I’m sharing here was conducted in 2004 as part of the school’s DrPH program in health leadership (1) as Dr. Roper was transitioning to become Dean of the UNC Medical School and CEO of the UNC Health Care System.

In this interview, we discuss:

1. His early career influences and mentors

2. Framing a vision for the future of the organization or team

3. Seeing the future and being able to communicate what you see persuasively

4. The importance of picking a few (3-4) key priorities

5. The challenges of deciding when to say “yes” to requests for your time

6. How to build a leadership team

7. How to maintain energy and find sources of renewal

In my view, the insights which Dr. Roper offered are as timely now as ever and provide tangible benefits for all public health leaders at any stage of their leadership journey (1). As you listen to Dr. Roper’s words of wisdom, I encourage you to adopt (as I have) some of those best practices in public health leadership (2) which he himself exemplifies.


  1. UNC Gillings School of Public Health, Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership. Accessed on Feb. 16, 2021: https://sph.unc.edu/hpm/hpm-drph/.
  2. Baker EL. Leadership and Management–Guiding Principles, Best Practices, and Core Attributes. J Public Health Management and Practice. 2014, 20(3), 356-357.

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.
Series Navigation<< Dr. Stephanie Bailey on Leading Organizational ChangeDr. Jeff Koplan on the Practice of Leadership in Public Health >>



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