As a part of Public Well being Thank You Day, celebrated yearly on the Monday earlier than Thanksgiving, we’d prefer to honor Denise Cardo, MD, who lately retired from public service after 30 years devoted to affected person security.
Denise leaves a legacy of defending the US and the globe from a few of our most difficult and pressing infectious illness threats.
Cardo joined CDC in 1993 as a medical epidemiologist within the Hospital Infections Program (later named the Division of Healthcare High quality Promotion), and after holding a number of management positions in DHQP, she was chosen as division director in 2003.
Cardo is beloved throughout the company for her work ethic and willingness to deal with troublesome conditions. Her profession is marked by unbelievable public well being success, together with implementing nationwide public hospital reporting, creating methods for the elimination of healthcare-associated infections, working to speed up efforts in opposition to antimicrobial resistance, and launching the nation’s first hospital sepsis core components. She has spent her profession ensuring healthcare services do their best possible to guard sufferers, healthcare employees, and communities.
We requested Cardo about her tenure, and she or he shared the next tenets.
Bear in mind the affected person.
Cardo has carried out her work from a people-centered lens. She has expertise as a CDC worker, clinician, affected person, and member of the family. Denise believes that doing the fitting factor for sufferers needs to be our focus, even when it’s not the preferred factor to do. “Behind the quantity is an individual and a household. Specializing in folks makes the bruises alongside the way in which extra manageable,” she shares. Denise fought for public reporting of hospital infections, though many advisors and even colleagues advised her the trouble was too dangerous and troublesome. Throughout this time, she confronted backlash from decisionmakers and healthcare services, however she persevered. Denise partnered with different companies, and her division led the transition of the Nationwide Healthcare Security Community (NHSN) to assist each the gathering and public reporting of the information, permitting extra transparency and accountability for prevention.
Through the years, Denise has additionally established significant working relationships with affected person and relations to ensure their voices and information are heard. She completed this by inviting them to CDC to share their tales. The relationships she created usually began with laborious conversations, typically leading to households demanding CDC to take extra motion. At the moment, nonetheless these years-long partnerships have helped CDC enhance affected person security, in some ways, together with the discharge of packages just like the Hospital Sepsis Program Core Parts. Throughout Denise’s time at CDC, infections in healthcare decreased. Moreover, extra healthcare services turned capable of observe their progress and determine issues (from a couple of hundred to greater than 38,000). All states now have efficient packages to stop infections in well being care.
Describe actions, not issues.
Cardo prides herself on her crew’s capacity to resolve duties that appear “inconceivable.” Her action-oriented management abilities encourage consultants not simply to ask, “What’s the issue?” but in addition, “How can we repair it?” Anybody who has been in a gathering with Denise has heard her patiently hearken to knowledge displays and, on the conclusion, ask politely, “And what are we going to do about it?”
She has been a tireless advocate for higher an infection management practices, emphasizing the significance of prevention along with acceptable remedy. When she was working towards the elimination of healthcare-associated infections, folks once more advised her it was inconceivable. “We’re not the Facilities for Description of Issues,” she laughs. “We had good knowledge; we might have simply revealed to a journal. However these infections shouldn’t be taking place. It was our job to outline the objectives and provides folks the instruments they should shield sufferers. I stated, ‘Show to me it’s not doable.’” Denise and her crew then started learning the Toyota Manufacturing System and different methods for clues on find out how to regularly and incrementally enhance healthcare high quality and an infection management, for each affected person.
In the long run, Denise and her crew led the event of the primary U.S. nationwide motion plan that established nationwide targets for stopping infections, holding federal authorities companies accountable for making progress. Her division has been instrumental within the U.S. responses to numerous outbreaks, starting from COVID-19 to fungal meningitis, medicine and medical gadget contamination, vaccine security, and the security of the nationwide blood provide and of organ transplantation. Denise received the Shepherd award for a few of these efforts, nominated by grateful colleagues and worldwide consultants.
Keep humble and open to progress.
Regardless of her place of authority, Cardo has constantly led her groups with humility. She encourages division members to query themselves, noting that regardless of being world class, “gold commonplace” consultants, all of us make errors. That’s why Denise has all the time supported her scientific workers to remain on rotation at native healthcare services. “I would like our folks to place our suggestions into follow, see what works and what’s laborious, after which we enhance upon it,” she says. Denise has utilized the identical precept on her many particulars when she has served as interim chief for a number of of CDC’s main Facilities in occasions of organizational want, together with as Appearing Deputy Director for the company. She brings again what she learns from these assignments to assist enhance DHQP and the division’s nationwide and world public well being impacts. Cardo believes that in questioning, all of us have a better alternative to advertise transparency, in addition to study and develop from one another.
Cardo can also be well-known for bringing communications and coverage consultants along with her to vital conferences and occasions and together with them discussions in regards to the total strategic course for the division. “We should have them on the desk from the beginning,” she says empathically. “Empower your colleagues, give them a voice; they do greater than replace web sites.” Cardo invested in communications experience in media relations, danger communications, communication science, and prioritized coverage outcomes. Most of the company’s most senior communication and coverage leaders started their profession in her division.
Companion towards perfection.
Inside her division, Cardo has inspired the idea of partnering and co-creating. “Throughout HHS, CDC, our personal division: we have now the identical objectives, we simply use totally different techniques. You should take a look at the panorama and assist to fill the gaps,” says Denise, reflecting on her many accomplishments that required collaboration. This performed out in some ways in her daily, typically partnering along with her late husband, Ken, an ICU director, to steadiness her prevention concepts along with his extra sensible ones; partnering with organizations as we speak that she could have been extra adversarial a few years in the past; or partnering with state and native well being departments to champion the wants of underserved and distant communities. “We’re serving sufferers, constructing collectively, and that’s what issues most.”
Denise Cardo has been a trailblazer in her profession. Her service has been incomparable, and her work ethic unmatched. Her affect has prolonged past CDC, shaping insurance policies and practices that safeguard public well being on a world scale. We rejoice her exceptional journey and need her a joyful and well-deserved retirement. Thanks, Denise, in your dedication to humanity.
Concerning the Authors
Katy Capers, MA, is the Affiliate Director for Communications in CDC’s Division for Healthcare High quality Promotion.
Kendra Driver, PhD, is the Author/Editor in CDC’s Division for Healthcare High quality Promotion.