Interview with Dr. Kaye Bender 

Q: How and why did you initially become involved with the CPH credential?

A: The CPH came about during the same time that I was working with others on national public health department accreditation. Several of the initial champions for certification were also individuals who had championed public health leadership development and who supported the concepts of health department accreditation. So, it seemed logical to me that both initiatives were going not contribute greatly to marking the profession of public health; one, at the individual level and the other at the organizational level. Eventually, I was asked to serve on the board of directors in order to align the two. I still believe in the connection between individual certification and organizational accreditation.

Q: As you look ahead in the next several years, what do you see as the priorities for the NBPHE Board of Directors?

A: With ten years of great work behind NBPHE, it is time to plan for the next decade. In my view, priorities are to ensure that the certification process remains credible and relevant to both education and practice; to ensure a strong certification organization that can accommodate the changes in public health going forward; and strengthening the NBPHE engagement with the certified professionals that it serves.

Q: As you talk to the public health community about the CPH, what types of concerns, objections or questions are you hearing?

A: As with any type of credentialing or accreditation process, there are always questions related to cost-benefit and the overall value, in this case to the individual. I do not hear anything about the CPH that is different than I hear from any other type of certification. I think it is a part of doing this type of business. I hope that NBPHE, working with the CPH professionals, can continue to articulate why this credential is so important for the profession.

Q: What is your vision for how the public health workforce could be strengthened over the next ten years?

A: The public health workforce, as most of us know, has sustained many blows over the past decade. From significant and ongoing cuts in the workforce to the tremendous demands the pandemic has placed on those remaining, they have endured a lot. It is time, in my opinion, to be as strong in our collective advocacy for them as we can be. They are the backbone of public health, whether it is governmental, non-profit, health system, academic, or other setting. It is time for all of us to stand up for them- for their professional development and salary; for their recognition; and for their ongoing passion and interest in a strong public health system for our country. The public health workforce of the future needs to be supported and connected in new and innovative ways. Aligning their education, credentialing, agency accreditation, and their ongoing professional development would go a long way toward ensuring we have the best and brightest working on our collective health.

Q: How has the pandemic changed how we think about public health?

A: I think, in many ways, the pandemic has created much more awareness of what good public health means to the economy, education, travel, and our general way of life. It has also created a greater picture of the inequities in achieving that healthy status for many populations. And, it has created some governance tensions for many health departments. I think public health as a profession will become nimbler and more innovative in its work as we thoroughly examine the learnings from the pandemic. If we really embrace the social determinants of health and their impact of health status, then, public health will be better from this experience.

Q: As you look ahead in the next several years, what do you see as priorities for the CPH certification?

A: I think keeping the CPH achievable and credible for students graduating from schools and programs of public health is one major key. This will take ongoing support from academic leadership. I hope it is a milestone that students can be proud to achieve because it goes beyond the school from which they graduated. They join a national group of public health professionals who have achieved the same recognition.

I also support maintaining and enhancing opportunities for public health practitioners who may be practicing public health without a formal public health degree is also a priority for the certification. These are individuals, like me, who were once certified in community or public health nursing, but who no longer have that option. These are key members of the public health workforce. Bringing these two groups together under a certification umbrella reinforces that public health is indeed a profession, with the appropriate applicable credentials.

Q: Describe yourself in one word.

A: Genuine. At least I hope that is the way I am perceived.

Q: What is your superpower?

A:  This is a difficult question. I think it is being able to sense what others are thinking and feeling and acting on that. At least I have been told that is my superpower.

Q: What motivates you to get out of bed each morning?

A: Meaningful work, whether it is volunteer or paid. I get up to do whatever I can to make wherever I am a better place. That keeps me going.

Q: Can you tell us about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?

A: If you work in public health long enough, you will eventually have one of those experiences where circumstances you find yourself in are totally incompatible with who you are and what your personal ethics would have you do. Many years ago, I found myself in one of those situations. I was naïve for sure, so once I realized what was really happening, I was totally taken off guard. I loved my job, so I was not leaning toward giving that up, but I knew I could not continue with this one particular aspect. I was both angry and perplexed. What I did instead of giving up was two things: I confided in my close network of friends to seek their advice and support: and I concentrated on those other activities in my job that were working well. Both of those strategies helped me through.

Q: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

A: This is a difficult question because there are several things that I have been pleased about along the way. I have been blessed to have worked with so many talented and innovative people to get things done. I think being a part of standing up the national public health department accreditation program is a major source of pride for me. I think it has been really good for the profession of public health to have that organizational recognition, and it was good for me to get to know public health colleagues from all across the country. I know that accreditation work is not easy, especially during times like we are in now, but I am so proud of the health department who have remained faithful to ensuring their accreditation status.

Q: What have you been doing to keep sane during quarantine?

A: I am so fortunate to have several groups of friends and professional colleagues who have been good at getting together virtually. So that has sustained me through the quarantine. But also, being able to continue meaningful work has helped. That work is a combination of both paid work and volunteer work, so being able to give back during COVID19 has also helped. And then I love music and gardening, so playing my harp and digging in the dirt to plant flowers and pull weeds has been very therapeutic.