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John Gwinn: What Does Your Model Academic Health Department Health Officer Look Like?

Date: 3/21/2011 1:42 PM

Related Categories: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Topic: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Tag: Academic Health Department, Academic Health Department Learning Community, Council on Linkages, Recruitment and Retention, Workforce Development

John Gwinn, PhD, MPH, President, Kent City Board of Health, OH
Do you ever think about what it takes to build the relationships needed to sustain an Academic Health Department (AHD)?  Or perhaps you work in an AHD and see characteristics in your colleagues that make them successful in their jobs?  If so, we could use your help.
The Board of Health for our small city will soon advertise for a new health officer.  Our present health officer, who is retiring, not only effectively administers the department but also spends 40% of his time on various inspections and enforcements.  In the not distant future we may have the opportunity to become an AHD working with a major university.  We think we need someone to lead our health department who can not only walk on water but also fly.
As we advertise and interview candidates, what types of credentials, characteristics and experiences are most likely to be important to identify someone who is grounded enough to run a small health department and has the skills to guide and develop it into an AHD?  Are there specific responsibilities for a health officer in an AHD that we should consider when reviewing qualifications? What kinds of resources and professional growth opportunities would such an individual need to be successful and to ensure the success of the AHD?
We would welcome your advice or thoughts on this timely issue.  The answers to such questions will not only assist our health department but also help to strengthen our collective knowledge around issues of recruitment and retention within public health.
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Ned E. Baker


For the most part the same standards used for hiring a local public health director should apply when hiring a director for an academic health department. Primary considerations should include; level of education, experience, skills ( administrative, communication; community relations) and knowledge of public health. Including an understanding and commitment to the national voluntary health department accreditation program, the National Public Health Performance Standards Program. An Academic Health Department should eventually be accredited, this would require the department and board of health to consider if they have the resources to meet the standards. In addition the Director for an academic health department should have an interest in academic education and mentoring students. They should have the type of education that would allow for the academic institution to provide them with an appropriate faculty appointment.

Lynne Stauff


As you begin recruiting for your new health officer, you may want to consider a lifelong learner to lead the organization. A focus on promoting a learning organization may be a natural segue for a future Academic Health Department..

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