It may tell you everything you need to know about Devin Jopp, EdD, MS, that amid the worst pandemic in a century he became the CEO of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

“I saw APIC as a wonderful opportunity in an amazing organization that is doing work in numerous settings, both acute and non-acute,” he tells Hospital Infection Control & Prevention (HIC). “Infection preventionists (IPs) are truly heroes through normal times, let alone during COVID.”

Jopp has more than two decades of leadership experience working with non-profits and healthcare associations.

His immediate past job was CEO of the American College Health Association (ACHA), where he advocated for the health and well-being of some 20 million college students on the nation’s campuses. Of course, that meant dealing with COVID-19, so perhaps the move to APIC leadership is not that surprising.

“We [at ACHA] formed our initial work groups [in] January 2020,” he says. “So, we were very early and wrote the guidelines about college reopenings. I was very involved early on in some of the policy recommendations. It was an opportunity to bring my skills to bear and help further the mission.”

Jopp does have an interesting skillset, one that embraces both technology and human learning. His education includes a master’s degree in computer and information sciences and a doctorate in human and organization learning. Jopp lives in Vienna, VA, with his wife and their three children.

HIC spoke to him further in the following interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.

HIC: You picked a heck of a time to take the helm at APIC.

Jopp: This has been more than a year and, really, we are not done with COVID, so a critical priority is to help our members navigate this. There have been lots of issues and confusion along the way, but APIC is trying to be there, take the guidance as we learn about this virus, and help our members be responsive.

HIC: IPs sometimes struggle to get their programs resourced and supported. Are you interested in taking this pandemic moment to raise their profile?

Jopp: One hundred percent. It has been a struggle in some cases, but I think the organizations that have responded well are ones that really embrace infection prevention in their culture. It comes down to baking it in — how they talk about and demonstrate infection prevention, and how they staff it. Even, frankly, how it is led. This is a senior-level position that can provide guidance and influence.

HIC: Nursing homes were devastated by the pandemic. It raises the question of what a difference an IP presence could have made in those settings.

Jopp: I agree with you. What we saw was a wholesale lack of infection prevention. Not taking the opportunities to adequately staff and put in those processes led to needless, really tragic deaths.

I think one of the lessons that we learned — and, hopefully, we are going to see some state and federal action around — is requiring IPs in these institutions, just as we have done in acute care. Build on that model to protect patients and residents of those communities as well.

HIC: It looks like you are starting this campaign by calling for a state law in New York. Will you lobby other states to take similar action?

Jopp: That is a focus for us, and we are working right now in the state of New York to hopefully introduce some legislation. I think there needs to be national attention right now on setting staffing and certification requirements, as well as establishing surveillance in nursing homes. All of that needs to be in place and that is a big policy fight for us.

The other piece that is important for us is really trying to grow the profession at a time when we are in a real crisis. We are finding that there is huge need for IPs, and we don’t have a bucket big enough to fill it.

There hasn’t been a clear pathway on how to become an IP, so we are launching the IP Academic Pathway. We are really excited about that and are partnering with universities and trying to create some bachelor- and master-level certificate programs. We are really trying to spark our profession. We are also trying to elevate infection prevention training, not just for our IPs, but really for other healthcare workers in various settings. It’s a little bit like taking a sip from a fire hose, but we have to get this right. We are still in response mode, but we need to start thinking about how we make sure this never happens again. There are policies and changes that we are going over now that we want to make sure get implemented.