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Welcome CSTE's New Face of Finance

Posted By CSTE, Friday, November 18, 2016
Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2016

Earlier this month, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) welcomed John Lisco to the organization as its new Senior Director of Finance. John has a wealth of experience in public health and management, overseeing several programs and projects at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), serving on the Emory University faculty, and working in the private sector. We asked John to share more about what drives him, his goals for this new position and CSTE, and what keeps him busy in his spare time.


How have your prior work experiences prepared you for CSTE?
Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of public health and health care settings in both the public and private sectors. These experiences have allowed me to develop leadership, management, and financial skills, which I bring to my position as Senior Director of Finance at CSTE.

I began my CDC career in 1995 in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control as a program consultant with the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program and National Skin Cancer Prevention Education Program. While there, I led a workgroup to develop projections for a national colorectal cancer screening program, which led to federal funding for colorectal cancer screening several years later. Subsequently, I held leadership positions that focused on workforce development, helping to prepare the current and future public health workforce to meet the emerging and on-going challenges in the 21st century. These positions included serving as Chief of the Public Health Prevention Service, Coordinator of the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Leadership and Management Institute, and Deputy Director of the Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development, where I was responsible for the effective planning, implementation, and monitoring of an annual budget that ranged from $32 - $62M. In my last position at CDC, I served as the Deputy Director of the Program Integration Unit in the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services helping to further solidify and nurture CDC’s relationships with several critical partners, including CSTE, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, and the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health.

Prior to joining CDC, I served as a senior associate faculty member in the Department of Behavioral Science and Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University. Before the Emory appointment, I worked as an area manager for the national employee health promotion program at AT&T™.

In addition to holding a master of public health degree in health policy and management from the Rollins School of Public Health, I also have advanced degrees in musicology and music therapy. During my tenure as a music therapist, I held several staff and leadership positions, working in a number of hospital-based settings, including adult and adolescent psychiatry, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, chronic pain, and physical rehabilitation.

What most excited you about the Senior Director of Finance position?
Over the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to work with leadership and staff at CSTE on the funding for several cooperative agreements related to workforce development, including the Applied Epi Fellowship, Applied Public Health Informatics Fellowship, Health Systems Integration Program, and the Informatics Training in Place Program. When I was approached about the Senior Director of Finance position, I was excited about the possibility of working with CSTE’s Executive Director Jeff Engel and many of the staff with whom I had developed strong professional relationships and for an organization whose mission and work I understood and respected. In addition, I was at a point in my life and career where I was ready for a new challenge and considering what kind of work to do next. This opportunity came along at just the right time.

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities for CSTE?
Not only is my position new, but there is a new organizational structure at CSTE, which includes three other new Senior Director positions that also report to the Executive Director. Although we have all worked together in different roles in the past, moving forward the new organizational structure provides both a challenge and an opportunity for the five of us to develop a robust, cohesive primary leadership team for CSTE overall, while providing strong leadership for our own functional teams.

As CSTE has grown under Jeff’s leadership, we have outgrown many of the financial management systems we use to monitor, track, and analyze how we use our resources. We need to replace them with systems that will meet our current and future needs, and allow us to respond to internal and external requests for information and reports in real-time.

Likewise, as the number of projects has grown, we need to ensure that we have the appropriate staff on board to lead the writing of proposals and statements of work, develop budgets, and track all grants and contracts.

What are your top three priorities in your first year?
First, I want to work with key staff to conduct a thorough business requirements assessment to identify CSTE’s financial management needs and ensure that new, interoperable systems are in place that fulfill those needs. Second, I hope to hire one to two new staff to coordinate all grants and contracts for CSTE. Finally, I want to get up to speed on all aspects of CSTE’s financial activities and needs, and provide leadership that ensures that the finance team supports the organization’s mission, vision, and strategic plan.

Where do you hope to see CSTE in five years?
It may be a bit early for me to talk about where I see CSTE in five years, since I am so new to the organization. That said, I expect that we will have the systems, people, and resources in place to ensure that the day-to-day fiscal operations of CSTE run smoothly and that we are able to support the continued growth of the organization.

Just for fun, what can you share with us about your personal life?
I am a firm believer in work-life balance and the importance of having interests outside of the workplace. As you may have noticed by my education and work background, I have had a circuitous route to public health, that has included a life-long interest in music. I studied piano and harpsichord in college, and growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s learned to play the guitar, as well. For the past two years, I have been playing keyboards in a garage band called Cover to Cover, which has performed at several venues in the Atlanta area. Likewise, exercise has been a great outlet for me. I go to the gym every morning before work and try to get outdoors on the weekends for runs and walks with my daughter.

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