“I hope passionate individuals see opportunity in public service — in my case, starting as a front-line epidemiologist and now leading this dedicated, inspiring team.”
As director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, Cara Christ, M.D., M.S., leads a dynamic team responsible for leading Arizona’s public health system, which includes responding to disease outbreaks, licensing health and childcare facilities, operating the Arizona State Hospital, and improving the overall health and wellness of all Arizonans.
Being in love with public health her whole life, Dr. Christ joined the Arizona Department of Health Services in 2008, and her passion has been protecting and promoting the health of all Arizonans. Appointed director in 2015 by Governor Doug Ducey, Dr. Christ has led the statewide response to the opioid epidemic, including developing and implementing the statewide system for real-time data reporting of overdoses and coordinating with law enforcement and the emergency medical system to launch naloxone training for first responders. She is also managing the state’s Zika prevention activities, and previously led Arizona’s successful responses to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza, 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, and the 2015 and 2016 measles outbreaks.
“To be an effective leader, you must be able to make daily decisions that take the positive and negative outcomes into account,” Dr. Christ says. “To do this, you need to have all the facts and listen to the advice from your key staff. Develop your team with people who are smarter than you and bring different strengths than you have to the team.”
Her agency’s main focus in 2020 has been the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to operating an emergency operations center and promoting ways Arizonans can reduce the spread, Dr. Christ’s staff developed a data dashboard that is used widely by the public and news media. “At the start of 2020, nobody could have ever predicted that in less than a month we would be responding to a global pandemic,” Dr. Christ says. “You need to be prepared to be flexible and change course quickly. Even when you have the best plans, you can’t plan for everything.”
Throughout her public health career, Dr. Christ has coordinated Arizona’s public health surveillance systems, implemented public health interventions, recruited and supported hospitals for certification as “Infectious Disease Treatment Centers of Excellence,” and overseen the development and implementation of 20 articles of rules, allowing for integration of behavioral and physical health while streamlining and decreasing regulatory burden for Arizona’s healthcare institutions. Dr. Christ provides leadership and public health expertise for the Arizona State Health Improvement Plan, and one of her priorities is to improve population health by implementing strategies that address the leading public health priorities. In addition, she oversees the development and implementation of the ADHS Suicide Prevention Action Plan to address suicide and social isolation statewide. Before her appointment as director, Dr. Christ had many roles with ADHS and, most recently, was deputy director for Public Health Services and the department’s chief medical officer.
Dr. Christ earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in microbiology from Arizona State University. She earned her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Arizona, College of Medicine at the Tucson Campus. She is an avid Disney fan and also holds a “Ducktorate” from Walt Disney University focused on Disney-style management. When she’s not busy working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three kids or training for her next RunDisney Half Marathon.
Arizona Department of Health Services
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150 N. 18th Ave.,
Phoenix, AZ 85007
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