Jennifer Bailer is Health Commissioner for the Butler County (OH) Health District.
She has degrees from Miami University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Wright State University (RN, BA, BSN, MS).
She has also held a critical role in our region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, serving on the leadership team at the front lines since the beginning. We asked Jenny for a few minutes of her time to share what that’s been like for her, and what she sees as our greatest opportunities moving forward.
Q: Thanks for joining us, Jenny! Tell us about what you do. What parts of your profession are you most passionate about?
A: I am the Health Commissioner for Butler County General Health District. I am passionate about all of public health and about seeing my staff make positive impacts on the health of the public at all levels.
Q: What role do you play in the region’s response to COVID-19?
A: In one way or another, I am responsible for all aspects of COVID response in my county.
Q: Why do you think our region has thus far been successful in managing the pandemic?
A: Well, we were not very successful for nearly a year, unfortunately. Things are starting to turn in a positive way now probably because we are, as a population, beginning to reach some level of herd immunity, and because we are getting vaccinated, of course. In addition, mask wearing has really become common place, and I see so much compliance everywhere I go now. People fought masks for a quite a long time, and now they seem to just take it in stride and some have mentioned that they feel odd without one! We know masks make a difference and they have kept down other respiratory diseases as well, such as cold and flu. Maybe they will just become normal and we will all be healthier.
Q: Where do you think we have opportunity to improve?
A: I look forward to seeing COVID in the rearview mirror and being able to return to addressing the social determinants of health that impact people so much. There is soooo much room for improvement in this area!! Addressing the social determinants is where public health and prevention really can have a positive impact on lives.
Q: What are some of the positives you predict will come out of the pandemic? Specific to medicine and healthcare?
A: I hope that we can carry with us learned lessons about compassion. That our personal behaviors and choices can have big impacts on the health of others. That doing some things that may be mildly annoying to us personally (such as wearing a mask) can and should be done to help others. I am hopeful that we can take that message to heart and make it a positive thing– caring about others as we make our own personal choices, putting others before self. We as a people, don’t do that often enough.
Q: How do you see healthcare/medicine changing over the next 5-10 years?
A: In a perfect world, over the next 5-10 years we will learn to put prevention first and be proactive, not just reactive.
Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not fighting a pandemic or caring for patients?
A: Right now, I don’t do much else besides COVID. A couple times a week I squeeze in a walk with my husband and my dog. I have to think long and hard to remember what life was like before COVID.
Q: Favorite book/podcast/show and why?
A: “This Farming Life” on Britbox/Amazon. It traces the lives of farmers in rural Scottish Highlands and islands, as they raise sheep and cows. Totally different from what I do day to day. It is my vacation on a screen. Very relaxing.