Interview: Lucy Gee

“I remember a seminar in which the speaker said that the hugest mistake public sector workers make is saying that we can’t measure what we do like for-profit corporations because we’re not for profit,” says Lucy Gee, Medical Quality Assurance Director at Florida’s Division of Medical Quality Assurance (MQA). “Can you imagine standing before the legislature trying to justify your program and saying we can’t really provide you with a measure of the value of what we do like the private sector can because we’re a “not-for-results” organization?”

We spoke to Lucy Gee about the must-have skills needed to both succeed as a public health professional, and also be effective in the public health role.

The success of a public health professional relies heavily on their ability to communicate, regardless of their position or rank. Professionals working in the public sector must know how to translate their efforts into terms that are understandable by elected leaders, voters, and private sector employers, believes Gee.  “Government is misunderstood and maligned because we have failed to effectively communicate what we do into measurable value, return on investment, performance outputs, and results,” she says.

Another skill public health professionals should consider developing further, especially if they are interested in a career in MQA, is data analytics. “If I’m interviewing a management-level person to work in MQA and they possess knowledge of how to use process improvement tools, data driven-decision making, they already have a huge advantage over any other candidate,” says Gee.

The Division of MQA uses a wealth of data to develop strategies that impact their three key processes:

  1. License health care practitioners who meet minimum standards of competency established by the legislature.
  2. Enforce standards of practice governing the practice of the health care profession.
  3. Provide information to the public to help them make informed health care decisions (through annual reports: www.flhealthsource.com).

Photo Credit: Cavale Doom

In the past two years, MQA has addressed Florida’s nation-wide reputation as being the epicenter of prescription drug abuse, diversion, and deaths. Together with law enforcement teams, MQA was able to cut down the number of pain clinics from 950 to 443 within a short two-year time span.

There is an exciting future in the role of analytics in public health and in the MQA division, especially when the evaluation of data can help form preemptive strategies for predicting workforce shortages and professional gaps. Gee believes that this kind of data analysis could be used effectively in proposing legislation to eliminate unnecessary barriers to licensure, as well as determine new areas for enforcement focus based on complaint data. In an effort to avoid future public health concerns, like the issues of prescription drug abuse, she wants to always be prepared. “I like to call this preemptive rather than reactive government,” she says.

A big thanks to Lucy Gee for her insights. Click here to learn more about the Division of Medical Quality Assurance.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator OMP@health.usf.edu.

Go Ahead, Mentor Someone!

The FPHTC Online Mentor Program (OMP) is unique in that all participants self-select their roles as either mentors or mentees. This self-selection process stems from the belief that everyone has the ability to teach someone else something worth learning, and everyone has the ability to learn something valuable from someone else’s experiences. This program encourages professional development in all forms and helps create opportunities that support meaningful mentorships.

Wes Payne, from the Florida Department of Health’s School Health Services, enrolled in the OMP as a mentor in March of 2012. “Looking back over the 20 years of my career, I realize that much about learning how to work in the private and public health arena came from my own experiences,” he says. “My belief is that if I had had a mentor during these early years it would have ‘sanded off the rough edges’ and made these experiences more manageable.”

As a professional in school health services, Payne works to help minimize health barriers to learning for public school students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, including but not limited to childhood obesity, managing chronic conditions in the school setting, protocols for anaphylactic shock and the use of epi-pens, and maintaining an appropriate nurse-to-school ratio.

Photo Credit: Kristine “kchanliz”

As a mentor, Payne hopes to highlight the importance of school health programs as a component of the public health system and the impact it has in schools across Florida. “When one considers children spend many of their waking hours at school, it is important to ensure that there is a system in place that assures that Florida student’s are healthy,” he says.

From the assurance role, Payne is responsible to monitor local school health programs and serve as a legislative analyst for school health related policies.  “On a local level, school health staff work tirelessly to provide direct clinical care and education to students so that they are healthy and ready to learn in the classroom.”

Payne encourages all mentees to develop effective writing skills for all channels of communication – from formal reports to social media correspondence. In addition, he stresses the development of critical thinking skills to help “be confident to handle autonomy, make sound decisions, and find the connection between opportunities you have to learn and how those opportunities will affect your future.”

But regardless of job-related knowledge, “the best indicator of success in the workplace is emotional intelligence,” say Payne.  Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. “[It] is critical to managing your behavior, adapting to various situations, and making critical decisions,” he says.

In general, it is important for future public health professionals to have an understanding of how large systems work and have the abilities to facilitate relationships, solve problems, and assimilate and communicate complex information.

Even as a more experienced public health professional, Wes Payne certainly recognizes the value in having a mentor to keep him in check and help him stay focused in a proactive manner. Good thing he can enroll in the program as a mentee, too!

Want to know if you should be a mentor or mentee? Discover your mentorship role HERE.

A big thanks to Wes Payne for his insights. Click HERE to learn more about the School Health Services.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator OMP@health.usf.edu.

Interview: M.R. Street

We reached out to M.R. Street, Healthy Communities Program Analyst for Florida’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, for her thoughts on public health mentorships. “A mentorship relationship is a win-win-win. It benefits the [mentee], mentor and the public health system overall,” she says. Having mentored two students from Florida A&M University and assistant-mentored a third student, Street knows first-hand the rewards of a having a mentorship experience. The mentees’ broad range of skills and abilities, coupled with their passion for the field, is a good reminder of the reasons why she entered this field years ago.

Photo Credit: Michelle “Suncatcher Craft Eyes”

Florida’s Bureau of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion provides a comprehensive approach to preventing, detecting, and reducing complications of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In Street’s current role, she works to promote policy, environment, and systems-change strategies to improve community health, especially regarding healthful eating, physical activity, tobacco avoidance, and the built environment. “Chronic disease prevention is a fascinating field of public health and one that, in my experience, produces a high level of job satisfaction,” she says.

Unfortunately, chronic diseases account for 61.3% of all deaths in Florida and $86.3 billion in annual economic losses. To combat these effects, the bureau houses the following programs: Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Healthy Communities Healthy People, Diabetes Prevention and Control, Comprehensive Cancer Control, Breast and Cervical Early Detection, Arthritis Prevention and Education, and Epilepsy Services. But the existence of programs is not enough. “Return on investment is increasingly important as a measure of the benefit of public health programs,” says Street. It’s important that these programs are able to prove effective in impacting the overall health of Floridians.

We asked Street for her advice on must-have skills for those OMP participants wanting to enter or transition into this field. “Public health professionals should exhibit core competencies that align with the ten essential services of public health,” she recommends. Click HERE to learn more about these competencies. Of course, computer skills and certifications will vary depending on the job opportunity and location.

What can OMP participants do to prepare for a future in chronic disease prevention and health promotion? According to Street, more attention is being placed on the built environment and its impact on health. Having a greater understanding of the environmental role in healthy living could help public health professionals in encouraging healthier communities and designing effective programs.

A big thanks to M.R. Street for her insights. Click here to learn more about Florida’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator OMP@health.usf.edu.

Online Mentor Program earns the PHTC Promising Practice Award

(from left to right) Dave Rogoff, Dr. Magnus Azuine, Dr. Kathy Hyer, Desiree Liburd, Rita Kelliher

The Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) recognized the Online Mentor Program with the award for Public Health Training Center Promising Practice during the HRSA Annual Conference held in Rockville, Maryland on August 29-30, 2012. Of the 21 submissions received by ASPH, the Florida Public Health Training Center (FPHTC) was among the nine Best Practice award winners. The purpose of this type of best practice award is to document the accomplishments and demonstrate the efforts of the Public Health Training Centers (PHTCs) to advance the field of public health. Dr. Adewale Troutman (Executive Director, Public Health Practice and Leadership), Dave Rogoff (Director, Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice), and Desiree Liburd (Assistant Program Director, Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice ) attended the HRSA Annual Conference and accepted the award.

The Online Mentor Program was designed by the Florida Public Health Training Center (FPHTC) to foster leadership development and expand knowledge, skills, and abilities of the employees and students enrolled. The program provides a greater understanding of the Florida Department of Health’s missions and programs. Currently there are 81 participants (approximately a 1 mentor to 3 mentee ratio) are currently enrolled in this successful program. Each seat is highly coveted as a key advancement into the professional field of Public Health. The FPHTC Online Mentor Program is funded by a federal grant awarded to the USF Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice (CLPHP) by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

The USF CLPHP is proud to be recognized in this capacity at the HRSA Annual Conference and would like to acknowledge Biray Alsac and Nadine Mescia for their hard work and efforts coordinating our Online Mentor program.

This post was contributed by Lisa Klos, Conference & Events Planner for CLPHP.