Category Archives: interview

Transformational Leader and Health Director Damon Chaplin Shares How He Motivates His Staff and Gives Advice on Being a Better Leader

By George T. Roberts, Jr., MHA, FACHE, NACCHO President and Chief Executive Officer of the Northeast Texas Public Health District

Damon Chaplin, MBA, serves as the Health Director of the City of New Bedford Health Department in Massachusetts and is a current NACCHO Board Member. He has previously provided statewide leadership as a Regional Director for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Mr. Chaplin has lead school inspection indoor air quality trainings for environmental health professionals at the Boston Public Health Commission. As a local business owner, Mr. Chaplin integrates his knowledge of strategic financial analysis into his department’s operations to ensure its financial stability.

Under his direction, the City of New Bedford Health Department successfully provides programs and services to residents in the areas of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; environmental health; public health nursing; and other health and wellness programs. Mr. Chaplin is currently leading his department’s efforts in becoming nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board. Below, he shares how he keeps his staff motivated and provides some advice on how to become a better transformational leader.

As the leader of a local public health department, what are you doing to ensure the growth of your organization and the health of your community?

Transformational leadership relies on two main principles—communication and influence. It’s no secret that most effective leaders are also effective communicators, but today’s public health leaders are also faced with being effective motivators. Many of our public health challenges reach far beyond our municipal boarders and organizational framework, and as a result, require the development of data driven systems which support inter-agency and cross jurisdictional sharing of resources, financing, and best practices.

In New Bedford, we are focused on developing systems, which support quality improvement, cross-sector collaboration and social innovation. We accomplish this through strategic planning, community partnerships, and neighborhood engagement. We’re currently in the process of applying for national public health accreditation with the Public Health Accreditation Board.

In addition, we recently began developing an internship program with local colleges and universities to support our work force development initiatives, special projects, and programs. This program has resulted in the development of regional profiles of municipal partners, evaluation of school based surveys, and support for regional code enforcement activities.

What are some characteristics you think every leader should have?

I believe every leader should possess a vision, passion, and perseverance. Leaders are born and blessed.  They are born with the vision of what could be and blessed with the desire to fulfill that vision. Leaders are often restless and seldom settle for the status quo. They are life learners and are often looking for opportunities to improve what has already been done or to do something that has never been done. Leaders often ask the question, “Why not?” and seldom settle for less. But today’s public health leader must also remember to include marginalized communities and individuals in the planning and decision making processes associated with protecting the public’s health.

What is one way you boost the morale of your organization and keep your employees inspired?

I try to employ different ways of boosting the morale of my department but my primary tactic is by helping staff and managers identify problems and remove barriers to peak performance. I found that this method has been very effective.

What advice can you provide to someone looking to become a better transformational leader?

There are quite a few ways one can become a better transformational leader. I believe it’s important to understand your leadership style and play to your strengths. One should always be able to learn from their mistakes and be willing to apply those lessons at the very next opportunity. A good leader doesn’t wait for change, but rather is the catalyst for change. Sometimes failure happens, but good leaders shouldn’t be afraid to fail. It’s imperative that those in leadership positions remain focused, identify their strengths and weaknesses, surround themselves with good people, and build healthy communities from the inside-out.

To share your story of transformational leadership or to recommend a leader to be highlighted, please contact Taylarr Lopez, NACCHO Communications Specialist, at    


Member Spotlight Interview: Health Director Emily Brown Discusses the Importance of Rural Health Representation

NACCHO’s Member Spotlight series features interviews with local health department leaders and staff about their careers in public health. This interview features Emily Brown, MPH, CPH, Health Director for the Rio Grande County Public Health in Colorado. Below she highlights the importance of rural health being represented in all levels of government and shares how her health department is addressing inequities in health as they relate to poverty.

Tell us about your career path into public health.

I received my undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Colorado in Boulder. During my last semester, I took a Communications and Health elective, which I sometimes credit for leading me to a career in public health or at least making me think about how important communications are in the health field. Continue reading

NACCHO Annual 2019: Interim Health Officer Nasseam McPherson James Gives an Inside Look into the Florida Department of Health in Orange County

Interview by Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist

Nasseam McPherson James, MBA, MSW, is the Interim Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (FL DOH). In the following post, she discusses her role within the department, shares how FL DOH in Orange County is addressing infant mortality and decreasing new HIV infection rates, and highlights ways in which other local health departments can prepare themselves to address public health challenges for decades to come. Continue reading

Member Spotlight: Health Director Lisa Macon Harrison Shares Technology’s Effect on Public Health Communication and Discusses Rural Health’s Need for a New Funding Model

Interview by Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

NACCHO’s Member Spotlight series features interviews with local health department leaders and staff about their careers in public health. This interview features Lisa Macon Harrison, MPH, Health Director of the Granville Vance Public Health Department in North Carolina. Below, she shares the how her department is addressing mental health and substance use disorder; youth wellbeing; access to healthcare; how technological advances have affected public health communication; and the need for a new funding model for rural public health. Continue reading

Outgoing Membership Committee Chair Winifred Holland Reflects on Her 30-Year Career in Public Health

Winifred M. Holland, MPH, MA, LMHC, retired public health officer, spent more than 30 years in local public health. She has served as an Administrator at Bradford County Health Department, Union County Health Department, and Clay County Health Department the last 10 years of her career. She also worked at various other health departments during her career in Florida, including Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Polk, Sarasota, Lee, Hendry, Glades, Collier, and Manatee, and served as a regional manager covering multiple health departments. Continue reading

Member Spotlight: Health Director Damon Chaplin Discusses His Department’s Plans to Address the Opioid Epidemic and the Significance of Achieving Accreditation

NACCHO’s Member Spotlight series features interviews with local health department leaders and staff about their careers in public health. This interview features Damon Chaplin, MBA, Health Director of the New Bedford Health Department in Massachusetts. Below he shares how community partners have come together to address the growing opioid epidemic and discusses how the accreditation process will help outline strategies for efficiently affecting better health outcomes in his community. Continue reading

On the Front Lines of an Epidemic: Public Health Workforce Initiative Jumpstarts an Opioids Response Project

By Laura H. Franzke, PhD, MPH Population Health Workforce Branch, Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development, CSELS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention & Judith C. Shlay, MD, MSPH, Associate Director, Denver Public Health

If war is ultimately about people, then the opioid epidemic is indeed a war. In the confused geography of war, there are battles lost, skirmishes won, stalemates, and retrenchments. The opioid epidemic has claimed thousands of lives and engulfed entire communities, yet often feels too monumental to be seen as anything other than relentless and unending. The continuous unfolding story of a crisis and the response, however, must also include some promise of hope: what’s working, what may work if we scale it up, and what adequately funded interventions look like. Continue reading