New Grand Forks Public Health Director Tess Moeller looks forward to ongoing efforts within department
Several of those efforts entail strategic planning following the 2022 Community Health Assessment.
GRAND FORKS – After being in the position for about a month, Grand Forks Public Health Director Tess Moeller is looking forward to a number of efforts underway in the department.
Among them is strategic planning following the 2022 Community Health Assessment , the latest in a series of assessments conducted every three years since 2013. A Community Health Improvement Project — referred to as a CHIP — is being finalized and main themes in the action plan are access to care, obesity, substance use disorder, mental health, workforce development and child care.
For Moeller, creating action items is important as she continues to learn more about the department.
“I love strategic planning and making that come to life. You can talk about strategy all day long, but it's really the action items related to that strategy,” Moeller said. “I think a lot of my phase right now is (what) I’ll call discovery. I’m asking 'why' a lot. … It just helps me have a baseline knowledge of the current work”
Moeller, originally from Moorhead, Minnesota, worked for Avera Health, a regional health system based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before becoming director of Grand Forks Public Health. Moeller, who has a background in nursing, worked in South Dakota for the last 15 years.
Moeller took some time to regroup and focus on her personal life after the pandemic and now looks forward to being closer to family in this position.
"(I'm) just looking for that next step in (my) career to put some roots down instead of the busyness of moving every couple years," she said.
Former GFPH Director Debbie Swanson retired at the end of January.
Other ongoing work in the department is focused on assessing the services provided by GFPH, securing funding for the various programs offered and following bills related to public health that have made their way through the Legislature. An additional area of focus will be to strengthen the department’s data reporting to showcase how GFPH uses money received from grants and community partners.
Moeller said another goal is to maintain and build upon community partnerships already in place through the previous efforts of the department and Swanson.
“My intent is to maintain those current community relationships that Debbie had worked very hard to establish and maintain,” she said. “I’m just looking to kind of level those up and refocus on community priorities.”
To maintain those partnerships, Moeller said it's important to ensure community partners have a seat at the proverbial table and that all populations are being reached.
Making sure everyone is heard has been a passion for Moeller. Through her previous work, Moeller was mentored by two orders of Catholic sisters, the Benedictine and Presentation Sisters, who are sponsored through Avera Health and who advocate for social justice issues.
“I was fortunate enough to be mentored by some of them and grew close relationships with them,” she said. “I learned more about the social justice issues that they're passionate about and it kind of lit a fire within me that I was able to make a larger impact in a public health setting versus a traditional delivery care system. ..."
Coming out of the pandemic, Moeller said the focus at GFPH must be on priorities that had to be placed on the back-burner. It's important to renew the focus with the department’s team and to ensure the department is in step with the community, she said.
In addition to the ongoing efforts in the department, Moeller looks forward to continuing to forge relationships with the city and county, along with the idea of someday being able to mentor others.
“I’m definitely open to mentorship. I have the philosophy of more of a co-mentorship so they’re teaching me as much as I would be teaching them,” she said. “That is something I’m truly passionate about. I've had some great mentors along the way. And obviously you can't repay that, but you can pay it forward and that is my way of doing that. So I think mentorship is huge.”
Moeller said she enjoys the variety the job brings.
“I love that no day is the same,” she said. “I love that we can be attending to our clients at the Social Detox Center as well as going out to mosquito control and planning for the next season."