Deborah Ellis, PhD, MPH, CIC, CPHQ

Location: California
Company/Organization: Alameda Health Systems
Title: System Director of Infection Prevention and Control 
First certified: September 2012

  1. Why did you choose a career in infection prevention and control?

 My journey into infection prevention and control was ignited by a profound passion. I spent numerous years as a certified Clinical Laboratory Scientist in the Clinical microbiology lab, working closely with authors of esteemed medical microbiology textbooks and infectious disease physicians. During this time, my curiosity expanded beyond the confines of identifying infectious organisms, and I found a deep connection with the concept of infection prevention.

I had the opportunity to work with an infectious disease physician, who recognized the importance of assembling a diverse team, one that included both microbiologists and nurses. I pursued my MPH and ventured into the infection prevention (IP) field within the same hospital where I previously worked as a microbiologist. Unfortunately, due to limited opportunities for non-RNs, I had to temporarily step away from the field.
However, fate had other plans for me. I was asked to take over the IP program at an organization where I served as an administrator of the clinical lab, and I fully embraced this path. I often say that I didn't choose to be an IP; it chose me. Driven by my desire to prove my worthiness, I pursued the CIC certification as a testament to my commitment.

Since then, my career has remained devoted to comprehending and combatting infectious diseases through the application of infection prevention principles and practices. This journey holds a special place in my heart, a testament to my unwavering dedication.

  1. What advice would you give someone who is interested in an infection prevention and control career?

For those aspiring to enter the field of infection prevention and control, I would strongly recommend starting with research. Begin by exploring the valuable resources available on APIC's website to gain a comprehensive understanding of the competencies and skills required in this profession. Consider pursuing the aIPC certification offered by CBIC, as it signifies your dedication and commitment. Armed with this knowledge and certification, you'll be well-prepared to embark on your career in infection prevention and control.

  1. What does being a CIC® mean to you?

Being a CIC® represents my unwavering commitment to advocating and advancing the practice of infection prevention. It signifies to colleagues that I possess a comprehensive understanding of the principles that underpin this field, and it demonstrates to my employers that I am dedicated to maintaining the highest standards in infection control practices for the organization. 

  1. How has being a CIC® helped you navigate the current COVID-19 climate? 

As someone who has achieved CIC® certification, I have been able to serve as a trusted source during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In a time when misinformation runs rampant, my certification has enabled me to be a subject matter expert and a trusted source of truth within my organization. This has allowed me to guide my organization effectively through the challenges posed by the pandemic, showcasing my cross-collaboration and leadership skills to executive leadership.

  1. What advice would you give someone pursuing certification?

My advice to those pursuing certification is to give yourself ample time for preparation. Establish a study schedule that suits your learning style and pace. Cultivate curiosity and always question "Why?" Understanding why a particular answer is correct compared to others is crucial. Familiarize yourself with the multiple-multiple-choice format of test questions as well.

  1. How do you stay up-to-date on infection prevention and control practices?

To stay current in the ever-evolving field of infection prevention and control, I engage in continuous research, extensive reading, and sign-up to receive relevant information through Listserves. Additionally, I maintain an active involvement with both my local and national APIC chapters, which provides a valuable platform for networking and knowledge sharing.

  1. What was the best studying method for you when preparing for the initial certification examination? 

When preparing for the initial certification examination, I found that a combination of resources worked best. I used materials published by APIC as study guides to solidify my content knowledge. Additionally, I explored various resources to familiarize myself with the types of questions I might encounter and to refine my test- taking skills. A key strategy was to review 10 questions from random subject areas every day for three months. I also delved deeper into the concepts behind the questions using the APIC manual.

       8. How has the CIC® helped you grow professionally and in your career?

The CIC® certification has been instrumental in my professional growth and career development. It has not only established my credibility as an infection prevention expert but has also opened doors to leadership roles and opportunities for advancement within the healthcare operations. This certification has been a cornerstone of my journey toward becoming a healthcare executive.