NCHEC is extremely proud of the many health CHES® and MCHES® who serve as essential personnel in the continual fight against this global pandemic. They have assumed critical roles in the identification, control, and assurance of the needs of individuals and communities. They advocate fiercely for public protection measures, and support many other critical health education and health behavior measures during these very difficult times. As our nation moves forward in addressing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a competent certified health education workforce will be as significant and essential as ever before.
The following interview is part of a new series to highlight the amazing work efforts of our credential-holders.
"Being in the thick of working at a world renowned academic medical center during COVID-19 certainly gave me experiences, enhanced skills, and provided opportunities to use my skill, knowledge, experience, education and expertise in new ways that I will always carry with me." —Lisa Clough, MS Ed., CHES®
NCHEC: What is your current job title and where do you work?
Lisa: I am the Director of Media Relations and Corporate Communications for the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore.
NCHEC: What is your role within your department at the medical center?
Lisa: Pre-COVID-19, I managed a team of three media relations professionals to tell the stories of medical innovation and world-class medical care at UMMC, as well as supported community health education through the development of public health education campaigns with media components. My work in health communications has always been devoted to educating and empowering consumers, patients, the public, and other key audiences to better understand and take control of their health.
NCHEC: How have your responsibilities changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Lisa: As the Director of Media Relations and Corporate Communications one of my roles is to serve as Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS). HICS is activated in any situation that can alter the operations of the hospital, and the PIO is one of the Section Chiefs. The PIO is responsible for all internal and external communications regarding the event. In the instance of COVID-19, my health communications work became as much if not more about internal communications as external communications. Our team made sure that all employees at our two campuses were kept informed of policies and procedures; launched educational campaigns to keep them informed and motivated (our clinical, environmental, and clinical engineering teams had an incredible job to do!); supported education in our community about COVID with a communications strategy that supported limiting the spread of COVID-19, helped the community understand the disease, symptoms, testing, and treatment; and worked collaboratively with the Incident Commanders, the other section chiefs, leadership and our communications colleagues across the 13 hospital system to ensure accuracy and timeliness of all health communications messaging and deliverables. We started in February working 24/7 for nearly 3 months, and still continue today, though at a more manageable pace!
NCHEC: Do you think your role as a health education specialist will be permanently altered due to this worldwide pandemic?
Lisa: While I have always applied my Master’s degree in health education and health promotion and my CHES® credentials to my health communications work, being in the thick of it working at a world-renowned academic medical center during COVID-19 certainly gave me experiences, enhanced skills, and provided opportunities to use my skill, knowledge, experience, education, and expertise in new ways that I will always carry with me.
NCHEC: Do you work with other CHES® or MCHES®? What does your certification bring to the table?
Lisa: To my knowledge, I am the only CHES® in the entire 28,000-employee medical system. I do believe it is valued that I bring this perspective and expertise to my communications work, as I have applied it to so many situations where it has made a difference. My undergraduate degree is in journalism and I always knew I would work in communications. My career was defined early by getting involved in health communications, which I love and find so meaningful. So when I decided to do a Master’s program, I wanted to pursue a degree to compliment my work and journalism degree to enhance my health communications work. That is when I discovered the health promotion and health education program and Virginia Tech, and NCHEC. The CHES® designation means a lot to me and helps guide my work every day. I am currently studying for my MCHES® so that I can become a diabetes educator (in my next life!). If anyone is interested in talking to me about how their CHES® supports a career in health communication, they are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.