APHA story

Interview with Linda Young Landesman, DrPH, MSW
By Georgianne Miller Mitchell, MHA
February 2011

Dr. Linda Young Landesman took the time to answer a few questions about her background and how she came to be so active in APHA. Dr. Landesman has been a member since 1990 and very active in her 20 years of volunteer service with us. This past week she took the time to tell us about the opportunities that have afforded her the experience that has benefited APHA.

Question: Looking back at your career, what positions have you held that you feel allowed you the opportunity to practice health administration?

Working in academic medical centers as a clinician taught me how the health care system operates and served as the foundation for my work in management. I began my career practicing social work in southern California for 10 years. My first professional job was working with women alcoholics as they detoxed at the designated county hospital in Los Angeles. Later at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, I helped the families and their children who suffered from cystic fibrosis. At that time, 50 percent of cystic fibrosis patients died before age 8, and home treatment was yet to become the norm. My last clinical job was working at the tertiary level University of California Irvine Healthcare Center with women who had high-risk pregnancies and with families when the babies required care in the neonatal intensive care unit. While I sharpened my clinical skills working with patients with complicated problems, more importantly these jobs taught me about working as part of an interdisciplinary team and about making things happen in a bureaucracy.

My job as Assistant Vice President at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) has offered an exceptional opportunity to practice health administration. For the past 15 years I have managed the contracts (currently over $800 million) between New York City’s public hospitals and the medical schools and provider groups who supply clinical staff and supervise medical residents. In the early years my team restructured the focus and business terms in these contracts and then developed corporate-wide monitoring systems. As national trends changed, including the growth of managed care, the contracts and monitoring evolved. HHC has often been on the cutting edge. In the late 1990’s my office implemented a requirement that our providers be culturally competent, both a benefit and a necessity in the public system serving patients who speak 170 languages. I am proud to work for a medical care organization that delivers preventive public health services to the most vulnerable people in New York.

Question: Can you share with us why you are active in APHA?

APHA offered the opportunity to work with like-minded colleagues and to advocate for something I believe in. The more I became involved, the more I wanted to do for the organization.

The story about my involvement in APHA begins a bit earlier than my first contact. I became interested in public health preparedness in the early 1980's when everyone in southern California was worried about earthquakes. This interest led to a doctoral dissertation that focused on hospital preparedness for chemical accidents. When I finished doctoral work there were few full-time jobs in public health preparedness in the country.

I came to my first APHA meeting as a student in 1989. After learning that there was little, if any, focus on disaster preparedness and response, I spoke at what was then the Program Development Board (now the Science Board) and suggested that APHA “do something about disasters.” With Lorna McBarnette, I organized solicited sessions sponsored by the Health Administration section for several annual meetings. Those sessions evolved into a continuing education institute, policy papers and resolutions passed by APHA’s Governing Council. After writing my first policy resolution and successfully seeing it passed, I was “hooked.” APHA will soon be publishing the third edition of my book, "Public Health Management of Disasters: The Practice Guide."

Question: What issues are you the most passionate about, and why?

In addition to my disaster work, I am passionate about a women's right to choose and to have full access to the range of health care services. During the five years that I worked with pregnant women, I saw the consequences of unwanted pregnancies. This work reinforced my views on freedom of choice. The current swelling of activities to restrict and overturn this right across the U.S. is worrisome, and I am looking for APHA to continue to be out-front in this fight.

Question: What do you think is the biggest challenge our Section (or any of the sections) has working within APHA? What do you think we should change and/or keep the same in the organization?

The Health Administration Section has been strengthened by a long line of organized and committed Section chairs and energetic committee chairs. The evidence that we are currently on the right path is clear for anyone who attended the Section’s awards and social event at APHA’s Annual Meeting in Denver. The room was packed and filled with energy and enthusiasm about our work and about the people who have made a contribution to our Section.

Our biggest challenges will be in communication and motivating members to pitch in. While we are currently using several good strategies to communicate to our members, it may be difficult to grab their attention amid ever-increasing demands in the workplace.

Like APHA, the Section’s strength is in its numbers. This year health administrators will be fighting to maintain public health infrastructure at the state and local level. Nationally, we need to solidify our energies to fight for implementation of health reform. The Health Administration section can bring professional expertise to the discussion and organization of resources at all levels of government. In addition, Health Administration can help set the direction of the discussion by developing policy statements and papers, and working with the APHA committees that craft APHA’s advocacy efforts.

Question: What do you think APHA‘s biggest challenges will be in the next three to five years, and how can the Health Administration Section make a difference in that challenge?

APHA’s biggest challenges will be maintaining membership at a time of declining government support, solidifying our business model so that we strengthen our finances and advocating for the maintenance of public health services at a time of plummeting resource.

My American Public Health Association Experience
  • Executive Board (2006-09) Chair (2009)
  • Governing Council (2006-09) for Executive Board
  • Governing Council (1998-03; 2010-11) for Health Administration Section
  • Health Administration Section Chairperson’s Award (2008)
  • Project Director and Editor of Health Administration Section: A Living History (2008)
  • COA ISC Taskforce on Joint Membership (2005)
  • COA Task Force on Fundraising, Assessment and Dues (2005)
  • Katrina Task Force (2005)
  • National Nominating Committee (2002-04) Chair (2003-04)
  • Nominations Committee Workgroup (2003-04)
  • Health Administration Section, Continuing Education Chair (2003-04), Co-Chair (2005)
  • Joint Policy Committee Reference Chair (1998)
  • Health Administration Section, Disaster Committee Chair (1995-98)
  • Injury Section, Disaster Committee Chair (1996-98)
  • Joint Policy Committee (1995-96)
  • Program Development Board (1994-97) Vice-Chair (1997)
  • Organizational Representative, National Conference on Electro-Magnetic Fields (1995) Annapolis, MD
  • Member Writing Committee, “The Role of Public Health Position Paper” (1995)

American Journal of Public Health Editorial Board (2004-05)

Public Health Association of New York City
  • Past President (2006-07)
  • President (2004-05)
  • Board (1993-07)
  • Student Paper Awards Committee Chair (2001-03)
  • Awards Committee Chair (1996-97)
  • Program Committee Co-Chair (1993-95)