Member Spotlight: Mylynn Tufte

July 19, 2017|10:33 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Mylynn TufteIn February 2017, Mylynn Tufte was appointed state health officer of The North Dakota Department of Health by Gov. Doug Burgum. She previously served as a health management executive and former critical care nurse. Tufte brings more than 20 years of experience in the health industry, serving in a strategic and health advisory role to some of the largest payers and providers in the country. Her diverse experience includes working with state governments, national and regional health plans, integrated delivery networks, academic and community medical centers, physician groups, and accountable care organizations.

How did your career in public health begin?

My career in public health began with an internship with the U.S. Public Health Services, where I was a commissioned officer. For three months during the summer of 1993, I was an ensign completing a behavioral health nursing rotation at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to become a state health official?

My past experience in population health management involved helping organizations improve quality of and access to care, decreasing total cost of care, and improving the overall experience for consumers. I became motivated to take those skills and experiences in transformational change to serve the entire state of North Dakota

Was there someone who influenced you to lead a health department?

Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota influenced me to lead a health department. “Mylynn Tufte possesses the expertise in healthcare strategy and operations we need to ensure the Department of Health fulfills its responsibilities to the public and keeps pace with the rapidly changing healthcare sector,” he said in February 2017. “Her impressive background in large-scale operational redesign fits perfectly with our goal of reinventing state government.”

What is your morning ritual?

I live in a rural area with a 64-mile drive into the capital, so it makes for an early start. About 50 percent of the time, I exercise in the morning before work. But I always have a cup of coffee for the drive.

What do you do to stay healthy?

The usual suspects: exercise, eat healthy, and sleep. What keeps me the healthiest is understanding that there are trade-offs for all decisions and it is important to be mindful. Sometimes a poor diet choice can be compensated with a healthier exercise choice.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

My favorite places to vacation are Napa, California, and Stockholm, Sweden.

What are your favorite hobbies?

I love to watch my kids and husband play sports. I also enjoy running. We are a family that runs together. This fall, the five of us are participating in the Bismarck Marathon as a team.

What do you love most about the public health work you do?

I love having the ability to make a lasting impact in the health and well-being of individuals and families. This is one of the reasons I became a nurse and why I continue to have a passion for working in the health field.

What are your primary public health priorities?

I am focused on improving the length of life and quality of life for all North Dakotans. The next biennium, we are focused on setting up a medical marijuana program, creating a separate agency for environmental health, and continuing to make strides in tobacco prevention and control despite a 44 percent reduction in funding.

What is your vision for the future of public health?

Precision population health management resonates with me due to its data-driven, personalized approach. The use of technology and innovation will help in the delivery, surveillance, education, and coordination of public health activities in the future.

How has social media helped advance public health within your state?

North Dakota is a geographically large and rural state. Social media has helped us reach a broader population with a more cohesive message.

What is your state doing to address the opioid epidemic, and how are you supporting the 2017 ASTHO President’s Challenge?

North Dakota’s implementation of the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant includes both statewide implementation and community-focused implementation. North Dakota will plan and implement activities through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant. These new activities will supplement current activities pertaining to opioids and will support a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic using a strategic planning process to conduct needs and capacity assessments.

Two statewide prevention campaigns address prescription opioid abuse and its consequences, including overdose. The Lock. Monitor. Take Back. Campaign is an evidence-based prevention effort with the primary goal of reducing access to prescription drugs, especially opioids, by encouraging North Dakotans to be safe with their medications, including promoting North Dakota Take Back locations, as well as promoting ways communities can support this effort at a local level.

The Stop Overdose Campaign is an evidence-based overdose prevention effort focused on saving lives by raising awareness of the risk and signs of overdose. It provides safe ways to respond and best practices in prescribing, treatment, and recovery practices to those most impacted by this public health concern, such as family members and friends, prescribers, pharmacists, and behavioral health professionals.