141: A Doctor, Bears, and Public Health

Robin Matthies, ASTHO’s Director of Social and Behavioral Health, tells you why you don’t want to miss Dr. Bruce Perry at ASTHO’s Insight and Inspiration event next week; Dr. Wayne Cascio, Director of the Center for Public Health and...

Spotify podcast player badge
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge

Robin Matthies, ASTHO’s Director of Social and Behavioral Health, tells you why you don’t want to miss Dr. Bruce Perry at ASTHO’s Insight and Inspiration event next week; Dr. Wayne Cascio, Director of the Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment at the EPA, explains how his agency and ASTHO will work together on public and environmental health projects over the next five years; ASTHO offers several public health policy legislative updates in a new blog article; and Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, discusses the women who inspire her and what she’s done to help elevate women in public health.

ASTHO Insight and Inspiration Series: Dr. Bruce Perry

ASTHO Bog Article: Joining Forces to Advance Resiliency to Complex Disasters

EPA News Release: EPA Awards Cooperative Agreement to Support States and Territories in Advancing Environmental Health

ASTHO Blog Article: 2022 Legislative Session Update – Part One

ASTHO Leadership Trailblazers Spotlight: Karyl Rattay

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, March 18th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


A medical doctor and teacher who wrote a book with Oprah Winfrey and has appeared on her podcast is coming to ASTHO next week. Dr. Bruce Perry is set to be the first guest this year in ASTHO's ongoing Insight and Inspiration series. The event is next Wednesday, March 23rd at 4:00 PM Eastern time. ASTHO's Robin Matthies tells us more in the morning conversation.

Let's talk a little bit about Dr. Perry. How did he end up getting an invitation to speak at the next Insight and Inspiration event?


First of all, he's kind of a jack of all trades: so he's a teacher, he's a clinician, he's a researcher, he's an author, and, little side note, he's also a huge, avid fan of bears—not the team. And his work around brain development and how stress changes the biology of the brain creates a unique connection between trauma and the current burnout and moral injury being experienced by the public health workforce.

So he, along with ASTHO CEO Mike Fraser, will provide a thoughtful discussion on how leaders can support themselves and their teams and really start to revitalize the public health workforce. And we think he's the perfect fit to do this.


One of the topics on his list of topics to cover is moral injury. What is that?


It's a topic we've been talking a lot about lately, especially, you know, during the latter part now of the COVID pandemic. And even though it's been talked about more now, the concept's been around for quite a while, both in nursing and in the military.

But basically moral injury is the mental and emotional response that might occur following events like global pandemics that tests an individual's moral compass, their values, and their beliefs; and experiencing moral injury can really lead to mental health struggles, unhealthy coping, and burnout. And we know that a lot of people are experiencing those things now.


For those who sign up to attend the event, listen to the talk, what do you hope they'll take away from it?


Well, I've had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Perry many times now, and he is funny, which—I mean, this isn't a funny topic, but it does help when someone is able to bring charisma and the sense of humor to some of this. He's also brilliant, and I think that that's very important as well. And more than anything, he's just down to earth. And so, I think he brings a unique mix to this conversation and will help us to better how to address it at every level—you know, the individual relationship, organizational, and system levels. And so, really kind of breaking it down and coming up with some action steps on how to start to address this.

And really the biggest takeaway I think is, is that individuals aren't alone if they're experiencing this moral injury and burnout. And while that doesn't take the problem away, hopefully it takes some of the weight off of our individual shoulders and makes it more of a collective issue; which means that there can be more of a collective response, and that we are stronger together than we are individually sometimes when it comes to this kind of stuff.


Register for the event with Dr. Bruce Perry using the link in the show notes.


ASTHO is part of a renewed partnership with the EPA and the Environmental Council of States to work together on projects impacting public and environmental health. Dr. Wayne Cascio is director of the Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment at the EPA. He says the three organizations will collaborate on tools, reports, workshops, and other initiatives over the next five years.


I think that it is key to bring together the expertise of these different organizations, both in terms of their scientific expertise, their relationships to communities who are experiencing these issues. That's something that the EPA doesn't have direct connections to; it's only through our partners that we can deliver our products to the people who use them and need them. And so, these partnerships are key,s and  an area where we've made significant investment during the time I've been at the EPA, which now is a little over 10 years.



ASTHO's policy team has a new blog article updating the top public health policy issues to watch this year. The report considers actions taken since January by lawmakers across the country, including the work of nine state legislatures wrapping up their sessions this week. Public health authority, immunization, data modernization, workforce, and equity issues are revisited based on three months of legislative action. You can read the article using the link in the show notes.


Finally today, ASTHO celebrates Women's History Month with a series of articles recognizing leadership trailblazers. Dr. Karyl Rattay of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services tells us about women who inspire her and what she's done to help elevate women in public health. You can read the conversation using the link in the show notes.


Before we go, we want to remind you to leave us a rating and a review—they help raise our profile, and that makes it easier for others to find us online. Also if you follow the show, you'll never miss a single report. You can do all of this on the channel you're listening to right now.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We are back Monday morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great weekend.

Wayne Cascio MD

Director, Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment, EPA

Robin Matthies MSW

Director of Public and Behavioral Health Integration, ASTHO