Q&A with NACCHO Board Member Joseph P. Iser, MD, DrPH, MSc, Las Vegas, NV

2017 National Public Health Week Celebration!

National Public Health Week is April 3-9, 2017. Please join us as we celebrate the power of prevention, advocating for healthy and fair policies, sharing strategies for successful partnerships and championing the role of a strong public health system. Here is one in a series of interviews with members of our Board of Directors. 

Q. Dr. Iser, what is your job title, where are you employed and what are your primary duties?

I am the Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, the public health agency for Clark County, Las Vegas, Boulder City, Henderson, Mesquite, and North Las Vegas. 

My primary duty is to protect the health and safety of the 2.1 million residents and 43 million visitors to Southern Nevada each year, and that means being prepared for the gamut of public health issues and threats that could occur in our diverse community. As public health issues know no borders, this responsibility stretches to neighboring counties and states including Arizona, Utah, and California. 

Q. Why did you choose public health as your career? 

My career path, ironically, started with a natural disaster. There was a flood and I lost the house I was staying in, my car, my clothes, and virtually all of my belongings. I was a second-year medical student at the time and applied for and received a U.S. Public Health Service Scholarship. I then became a U.S. Public Health Commissioned officer and one assignment led to another until I had advanced to a level that I didn’t feel I would be able to do the individual, more personal level service of a primary care physician. I went on to become a Chief Health Officer in two counties in California, and then two in Nevada. What I have found in my career trajectory is that through my service in public health I have had an impact on both individuals’ and the community’s health and well-being. The services, programs, and policy impact that public health can bring to a community cannot be undersold, and I am proud of role I have played.  

Q. One of the most pressing current concerns in public health is the potential loss of Prevention and Public Health Fund. How would this affect your health department and community?

The Prevention and Public Health fund is a critical source of public health funding for the CDC. Funds that are provided to the states help maintain chronic disease programming and infrastructure. The loss of these funds would be a tremendous setback to the chronic disease prevention and health promotion programming of state and local public health agencies and the cost savings that have been realized by these programs to date. 

Q. What is the proudest moment of your career? 

As I reflect on my career, there are a wealth of sad moments, funny moments, moments when I have been proud of my accomplishments, and more moments when I have been proud of the accomplishments of my staff. However, my proudest accomplishment is not just one moment in time. It is working everyday with my staff to protect and promote the health of the public.