The newly created position allows the organization to better focus on its public health efforts and growth during the post-pandemic era


FLORENCE, Ky. — The Northern Kentucky Health Department is continually searching for ways to improve health in the region, and the new year signifies another step toward that end through a significant organizational change. On December 27, Elise Sebastian started as NKY Health’s Deputy Director. She becomes the first Deputy Director in the history of the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

Sebastian’s duties include overseeing the operations, finance, and systems of the Health Department. By having these rolls collectively overseen by a Deputy Director allows the organization to better focus on its public health efforts, and grow both in terms of the quantity and quality of services it provides as it enters the post-pandemic era.

“Having a Deputy Director will allow us to expand and intensify our efforts in a number of areas,” says Northern Kentucky Health Department District Director Jennifer Mooney, PhD, MS. “Our operations and the systems we use all changed due to COVID. So, as we move into this new era, it makes sense from the business standpoint to adjust organizationally. Plus, being fiscally and financially sound, leveraging organizational capacity, collecting and sharing data, being innovative and adaptable—all of these things are an integral part of our new Strategic Plan, and having someone to partner with in the oversight of these areas will help us fulfill that plan. It is our responsibility as a public entity to bring in talent that will help us succeed. We are fortunate to have someone with as much experience and leadership as Elise to fill this role.”

Sebastian joins the Health Department after a career in the nonprofit world, including serving as Program Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association’s 37-county Greater Cincinnati Chapter, and as Executive Director of two Northern Kentucky assisted living communities.

Sebastian earned her Bachelor of Social Work degree from Northern Kentucky University, and her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Kentucky. She also has a Six Sigma white belt on process improvement and methodology, and was a 40 Under 40 nominee while at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“First of all, let me say how thrilled I am to be part of the Northern Kentucky Health Department,” says Sebastian. “There are really big, important things happening here. To be able to utilize my skills and contribute to that effort is truly an honor. But as Dr. Mooney said, now is the time to shape the way we better meet the needs of the community. What if we change in ways that make a bigger impact?”

Some of the skills Sebastian brings to the Health Department including analyzing previous structures and operations, and seeing if they can’t be streamlined or updated.

“Often we find ourselves saying, ‘We do things that way because that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ That’s where I come in,” she says. “When we say that, we need to take a look at the process and see if there isn’t a better way to accomplish it.”

Process improvement is something she has pursued throughout her career, dating back to her first job.

“I’ve always been interested in the methodology of system change,” she says, “and I think what really interested me was when I was 18 years old and working in a nursing home. We were providing what we thought was care, but it wasn’t. It was outdated. The times changed but the systems did not. I remember thinking, something has to change. We’re caring for human beings.”

While many system changes have technology or process as a base, the key is really being able to look at something from a new angle and understand the people involved, she adds. For instance, at the Alzheimer’s Association, doctors were being inundated with calls from caregivers because they didn’t know where else to turn with basic questions. She was able to get information about the Alzheimer’s Association added to the hospital’s database, so when a new patient was diagnosed the caregiver had a point of contact for questions and assistance.

“You have to think of things in ways you never thought of before. You have to be creative with your resources. A lot of it comes down to understanding people, being able to pull folks together, and creating opportunities for growth and collaboration. That’s why I am so excited about becoming Deputy Director for NKY Health. I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to get my arms around how we can grow and make a difference in the health of the people of Northern Kentucky.”