Member Spotlight: Kristina Box

January 25, 2018|11:38 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Kristina Box, MDKristina Box, MD, is state health commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health. Prior to this, Box worked as a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in Indianapolis, starting her career at Community Hospitals of Indianapolis as a private practitioner with Clearvista Women's Care. Since 2015, Box has served as the physician lead for Community Health Network's Women's Service Line. In addition, Box has served on the Indiana Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative, an advisory council to the Indiana State Department of Health comprised of more than 300 statewide community professionals working to reduce infant mortality. Box earned her undergraduate degree at Indiana University in Bloomington and her medical doctorate at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the Indiana State Medical Association, and serves on many hospital committees.

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

I was drawn to the position because of my interest in infant mortality and the impact the opioid epidemic is having on our youngest citizens. In 30 years as an OB/GYN in Indianapolis, I have firsthand experience with pregnant mothers with substance use disorder and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. The opportunity to impact these areas and Indiana’s stubborn infant mortality rate, as well as other pressing health issues, such as smoking and obesity, made the opportunity very compelling.

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

I received wonderful encouragement from Jennifer Walthall, MD, former deputy health commissioner and current secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

What is your morning ritual? 

I get up at 5 a.m. and walk four or five miles on the treadmill. I typically have coffee and a protein shake to start my day.

What do you do to stay healthy?

I focus on getting enough sleep, exercising and eating healthy, with lots of fruits and vegetables.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

The mountains—where I hike and ski.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Exercise, reading, hiking, and spending time with my family.

What is your state doing to address the opioid epidemic?

Indiana is doing many of the things that other states are doing. Gov. Holcomb established a drug commission that brings together leaders from health, government, the court system, child welfare, and other areas to discuss ways to address the opioid epidemic. At the Indiana State Department of Health, we are working together to breakdown silos and collect better data to help inform the state’s efforts to address the opioid crisis. Our efforts include distributing naloxone to local health departments, a neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) pilot program that does testing to better educate us about the burden of NAS in Indiana, and providing data on hepatitis C and HIV rates to all of our counties to help them understand how they are impacted by the epidemic so that they can make informed decisions about how best to address it. In addition, we are collaborating with other state agencies to pool our resources for the greatest impact.

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

The people I work with. They have a real heart and passion for the health of Indiana.

What do you find most challenging about public health?

Sometimes progress moves slowly—and that can be frustrating.

What are your primary public health priorities?

Tobacco cessation, obesity, infant mortality, and substance use disorder.

What is your vision for the future of public health?

In the future, I hope that we will have achieved a level of public health that allows us to begin focusing more on wellness and less on disease.

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

In addition to leading by example, I think it is important to network and engage healthcare colleagues, including local public health leaders, communities, and business organizations.