Dr. Jeff Koplan on the Practice of Leadership in Public Health

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.

It has been said that one of the central tasks for leaders is to “positively impact the way others feel.” (1) In my decades of public health experience, no one exemplifies this maxim better than my friend and colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan. In this interview, Dr. Koplan’s extraordinary supply of wit and wisdom is one that you will truly enjoy and learn from. The interview focuses on his days as CDC Director followed by his transition to the role of Vice President for Global Health at Emory University, where the interview was conducted in 2008.

We discussed a wide range of topics which Dr. Koplan covered with unusual candor and deep insight. His characteristically engaging style speaks directly to emerging public health leaders for whom Dr. Koplan has served as a role model for decades. In the interview, we discussed:

  • His early influences that shaped his leadership journey
  • Team building, including the difficult challenge of moving someone off of the team
  • Setting priorities for accepting requests to speak or engage in an initiative
  • Maintaining a daily discipline of work-life balance including his specific practices

I invite you to sit back and enjoy this delightful, candid, and truly inspirational conversation with one of our nation’s most distinguished public health leaders.


1. Baker EL. Leadership and Management – Guiding Principles, Best Practices, and Core Attributes. J Public Health Manag Practice. 2014. 20 (3). 356-357.

Read other posts in this series:

Being Better Messengers

Ed Baker, MSc, MD, MPH

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. [Full bio.]