Member Spotlight: Lilian Peake

April 12, 2018|10:44 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Lillian PeakeLilian Peake is director of public health of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). In this role, Peake provides overall strategic direction and leadership for the department’s public health division and ensures the delivery of appropriate, timely, and quality services in the department’s 77 public health service sites. Prior to joining DHEC, Peake served as deputy commissioner for population health for the Virginia Department of Health. Peake earned her MD from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, her MPH from Johns Hopkins University, and worked in marketing and communications for 10 years.

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

I completed my residency in preventive medicine and general public health, and have held governmental public health leadership roles at both the local and state levels since 2001. Over time, learning about the role state health officials can play in bringing together stakeholders to improve population health drew me to taking on this challenge.   

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

Jeff Lake, former deputy commissioner for the Virginia Department of Health, influenced me to lead a health department.

What is your morning ritual?

Every morning, I wake up early and, over coffee, catch up on emails and organize my thoughts for the day before leaving home.

What do you do to stay healthy?

I enjoy doing both yoga and pilates regularly to stay healthy.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

I enjoy traveling to new places. However, my favorite city to visit is Paris, and favorite trip overall was to South Africa.

What are your favorite hobbies?

In my free time, I like to travel, cook, play tennis, paint, and read.

What is your state doing to address the opioid epidemic?

Over the last several years, South Carolina has been working across multiple sectors to address the opioid epidemic. Most recently, Gov. Henry McMaster issued two executive orders to declare the opioid epidemic a statewide public health emergency and task an emergency response team to bring heightened urgency to the state’s collaboration, planning, and response efforts. See executive order no. 2017-42 and 2017-43.

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

I love most the public health professionals with whom I work! They are compassionate, committed to public service, resourceful, and continually seek opportunities to learn.

What are your primary public health priorities?

I think it’s very important to build partnerships with persons from all sectors and walks of life to collaboratively develop strategies that will improve population health outcomes.

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

Public health leaders should listen to community members without a pre-determined agenda, develop relationships so there is a foundation for trust, and work beside and with them to advance their strategies.

What is something you’re most thankful to have been a part of during your career in public health?

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with a multi-stakeholder group to develop and implement a program modeled after Promise Neighborhoods to address the social determinants of health in an under-resourced community.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned during your career in public health?

Public health leaders do not have the answers. Front line staff do. Communities do. If we are lucky, we can bring people together and ask some helpful questions.