Benjamin Chan, MD, MPH'13
State Epidemiologist, New Hampshire
As the State Epidemiologist for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Benjamin Chan’s goal is to prevent and control disease, and promote the health of Granite state residents. As one of the first to get a call when there is a threat or widespread health concern, Chan has provided medical expertise and support in the state’s response to emerging infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika, as well as to environmental health concerns regarding drinking water contamination with Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs). Noting that the definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being,” Chan stresses that an important part of his job is researching a threat or health concern and then providing evidence-based information to the public and health care providers to help address concerns. Quality improvement initiatives are also a key part of Chan’s work, and he is often looking at how to collaborate more efficiently with local health agencies and providers to use population health data to inform and improve local healthcare delivery, especially for evolving concerns such as the opioid epidemic. One of the greatest challenges of his multi-faceted role in improving population health is addressing the social and behavioral determinants of health. “Protecting and promoting health is not just about diagnosing and treating diseases, or responding to the most recent emerging health threat. To have the greatest impact on the health of the population we need to be addressing the behavioral and socioeconomic factors which impact health, and we need to be working with our community partners to enable families and communities to be healthy.”
Since arriving at the state health department in 2014, an area of focus for Chan has been addressing the misuse of antibiotics—work that started during his preventive medicine residency and infectious disease fellowship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. As a leader in the state’s Antibiotic Stewardship Initiative, Chan’s goal is to strengthen antibiotic resistance surveillance and to improve the use of antibiotics. Chan is also a member of a national task force devoted to improving surveillance of antibiotic resistance nationally.
One of my projects at The Dartmouth Institute and at DHMC’s Leadership and Preventative Medicine Residency was to look at how a certain antibiotic called vancomycin was being prescribed and monitored in hospitalized patients. To be successful this work required multidisciplinary collaboration, and I remember sitting in meetings at DHMC with the IV team specialists, nurses, pharmacists, clinicians, and electronic medical record personnel, all working toward a common goal; it was an incredible experience and opportunity to be able to improve the healthcare delivery system to protect health. The collaborative nature of the program is phenomenal as it reflects real-life healthcare challenges. The skills, training, and principles I learned are broadly applicable not just to a hospital facility but also to the field of public and population health.