Member Spotlight: Wendy Braund

July 06, 2017|3:50 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Wendy BraundWendy Braund, MD, MPH, has been state health officer and senior administrator of the public health division at the Wyoming Department of Health since 2011. On June 30, she stepped down from this role, deciding not to seek reappointment. She has since joined The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and is working closely with ASTHO as an alumni member. Braund has a wide array of public health experience, previously working with HHS and HRSA.

Braund spoke with ASTHO about her tenure as a state health official and why she believes public health is so important.

“It has been the professional opportunity of a lifetime. Being able to lead and develop a newly formed public health division, establish public health priorities for the state and align resource and policies to reflect those priorities, and witness the transformation of public health practice to an evidence- and performance-based approach has been tremendously challenging and rewarding.”

How did your career in public health begin?

After medical school, I started my clinical training as a neurosurgery resident but switched to preventive medicine. Having obtained my Master of Public Health degree, I was able to apply that knowledge in a variety of settings during my preventive medicine residency – this convinced me to have my practice of medicine be in public health.

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

At HHS, I worked on the development of several large national policy initiatives – Healthy People 2020, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, etc. – and was responsible for public health workforce development programs. I wanted to see how well those policies and programs actually worked in practice, which motivated me to become a state health officer.

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

While I was a resident, I interacted with multiple state and local health officers in the preventive medicine community. Because of this, becoming a health officer was one of my professional aspirations. When I decided to leave HHS, the executive directors of ASTHO and NACCHO at the time encouraged me to apply for health officer jobs at both the state and local level. In fact, ASTHO is responsible for recommending me for my current position!

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

What I love most about the public health work I do is that it’s a team sport. It takes a variety of disciplines, skills, talents, and partners to practice effective public health. I also love that I’m doing good for the community while doing good work.

What do you find most challenging about public health?

It can be challenging to demonstrate outcomes in the time frame desired by funders and state leadership. It can take years to decrease the smoking or obesity rate, for example, so utilizing good proxy measures to track progress, changing strategies if needed, and proving effectiveness is critical. But often determining those measures can be challenging.

What is your vision for the future of public health?

My vision for the future of public health includes a true focus on primary prevention, an educated citizenry that values and demands support for and provision of public health services, and healthy communities in which healthy choices are the default.

What are three things public health leaders can do to educate and engage the communities they serve?

Listen, identify, and empower. First, we must listen to the concerns of community members to understand their public health and related challenges and strengths. Second, we must collaborate with them to identify potential solutions and resources needed to address those challenges and build on strengths. The first two steps will then empower individuals and groups to make their own communities healthier, according to their definition and desired focus.

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

Wyoming is working to refine our data collection to get more specific information on drugs of abuse, generally, so we have a more accurate picture of the issue. In the 2017 legislative session, Wyoming passed the Opiate Overdose Emergency Treatment Act, which will make naloxone widely accessible from pharmacists and other healthcare providers, provide training on administration to anyone who obtains naloxone and might administer it, and require reporting to the health department, which will help with our real time data collection. Our public health and behavioral health divisions are also collaborating with one another, as well as with other partners, on our opioid-related grant programs to strengthen the continuum of prevention, treatment, and recovery.

What is your morning ritual?

Every morning, my dog, Max, takes me on a walk (or run) as early as he can get me up. Then, I drink coffee and eat breakfast while packing my lunch. I will then shower and get ready for the day.

What do you do to stay healthy?

I try to eat well and be active, although it’s more difficult than it should be! Running helps me stay healthy, both mentally and physically. I’ve found that I do some of my best thinking while running.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

My favorite vacation spot is Cheyenne Frontier Days. It’s a western celebration that happens every July. I always take vacation to volunteer at Cheyenne Frontier Days, as it’s really fun and a great way to contribute to the community.

What are your favorite hobbies?

My favorite hobbies include horseback riding, choral singing, and ice hockey. I’m a crazy NHL fan, and The Washington Capitals are my team. I have kept my season tickets since moving to Wyoming, and fly back just for games