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 not too long ago retired from public service after 30 years devoted to affected person security.
Denise leaves a legacy of defending america 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 tough 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 parts. She has spent her profession ensuring healthcare amenities do their easiest to guard sufferers, healthcare employees, and communities.
We requested Cardo about her tenure, and she or he shared the next tenets.
Keep in mind the affected person.
Cardo has performed 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 proper 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 individuals makes the bruises alongside the best way extra manageable,” she shares. Denise fought for public reporting of hospital infections, despite the fact that many advisors and even colleagues instructed her the hassle was too dangerous and tough. Throughout this time, she confronted backlash from decisionmakers and healthcare amenities, however she persevered. Denise partnered with different companies, and her division led the transition of the Nationwide Healthcare Security Community (NHSN) to help 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 members of the family to verify their voices and data are heard. She achieved this by inviting them to CDC to share their tales. The relationships she created typically began with onerous conversations, generally leading to households demanding CDC to take extra motion. At the moment, nevertheless 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 Components. Throughout Denise’s time at CDC, infections in healthcare decreased. Moreover, extra healthcare amenities turned in a position to observe their progress and determine issues (from just a few hundred to greater than 38,000). All states now have efficient packages to forestall infections in well being care.
Describe actions, not issues.
Cardo prides herself on her group’s potential to unravel duties that appear “unimaginable.” Her action-oriented management abilities encourage specialists 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 take heed to information 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 applicable remedy. When she was working towards the elimination of healthcare-associated infections, individuals once more instructed her it was unimaginable. “We’re not the Facilities for Description of Issues,” she laughs. “We had good information; we may have simply revealed to a journal. However these infections shouldn’t be occurring. It was our job to outline the objectives and provides individuals the instruments they should defend sufferers. I stated, ‘Show to me it’s not attainable.’” Denise and her group then started finding out the Toyota Manufacturing System and different methods for clues on methods to regularly and incrementally enhance healthcare high quality and an infection management, for each affected person.
Ultimately, Denise and her group 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, treatment and medical system 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 specialists.
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” specialists, all of us make errors. That’s why Denise has at all times supported her scientific employees to remain on rotation at native healthcare amenities. “I need our individuals to place our suggestions into apply, see what works and what’s onerous, 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 larger alternative to advertise transparency, in addition to be taught and develop from one another.
Cardo can also be well-known for bringing communications and coverage specialists together with her to necessary conferences and occasions and together with them discussions in regards to the general strategic route 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. Lots of the company’s most senior communication and coverage leaders started their profession in her division.
Associate towards perfection.
Inside her division, Cardo has inspired the idea of partnering and co-creating. “Throughout HHS, CDC, our personal division: we’ve the identical objectives, we simply use completely different ways. You have to have 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 day after day, generally partnering together with her late husband, Ken, an ICU director, to stability her prevention concepts together with his extra sensible ones; partnering with organizations at present 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 worldwide scale. We have fun her exceptional journey and need her a joyful and well-deserved retirement. Thanks, Denise, on 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.