A Leadership Career in Government: EPA Chief Speaks | Gina McCarthy | Voices in Leadership | Summary and Q&A

March 2, 2016
Harvard University
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A Leadership Career in Government: EPA Chief Speaks | Gina McCarthy | Voices in Leadership


Jana McCarthy, former EPA administrator, discusses her experiences leading the EPA and the challenges of addressing climate change and improving air and water quality.

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Key Insights

  • 👏 Jana McCarthy's appointment as EPA administrator under President Obama was met with both praise and criticism.
  • 🧑‍⚕️ McCarthy's experiences in community health work and crisis management have shaped her approach to public health and environmental matters.
  • 💦 The EPA's focus on clean water, air quality, climate change, and chemical safety reflects their goal of protecting public health.
  • 🤝 McCarthy emphasizes the need for clear and effective communication, especially during crises and when dealing with scientific uncertainty.
  • 💦 The EPA is committed to addressing emerging environmental challenges, such as contaminated water sources and unregulated chemicals.
  • 🧑‍⚕️ McCarthy believes that action on climate change is crucial for public health and views the EPA's work as essential in promoting a clean and healthy environment.
  • 👯 McCarthy values diversity and community engagement in EPA decision-making and aims to make the agency more representative of the people it serves.


good afternoon and welcome to the voices in leadership a series that focuses on the Nexus of Science and Leadership to create positive change in public health I am Betty Johnson and I have the privilege to direct this program and introduce today's guests pragmatic straight shooter and driven are adjectives that could be used to describe today's spe... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Jana McCarthy get interested in cooking and become a fan of Barefoot Contessa?

McCarthy started cooking as a distraction from her busy job and has lived away from home for the past 11-12 years. She views cooking as a celebration and a way to relax and enjoy time with loved ones. She admires Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, for her cooking skills.

Q: What was one of McCarthy's first jobs in public health and how did it shape her view of the world?

McCarthy worked as a health officer in her hometown and was responsible for various public health tasks, including vaccinations, health clinics, restaurant inspections, and housing inspections. This experience made her realize the importance of community health work and the interconnectedness of environmental issues on a larger scale.

Q: What is McCarthy's perspective on being the EPA administrator and the challenges that come with the position?

McCarthy enjoys her job and brings a wealth of experience and understanding to the table. She emphasizes the importance of speaking clearly and focusing on priority issues. Despite criticism, she remains dedicated to making progress and finding the right solutions. McCarthy also mentions the support she receives from the Obama administration in addressing environmental challenges.

Q: What is the current status of the Clean Power Plan and how does McCarthy view its future?

McCarthy explains that the Clean Power Plan is still in effect, despite a Supreme Court decision to impose a stay. She remains confident that the plan will survive and emphasizes the significant progress and momentum already achieved in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency. McCarthy also highlights the global recognition and urgency of tackling climate change.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Jana McCarthy was appointed by President Obama to lead the EPA and focused on addressing climate change, improving air quality, and protecting water resources.

  • McCarthy considers the cleanup of Boston Harbor as one of her major achievements and emphasizes the importance of public health in environmental work.

  • She discusses the challenges of crisis management, such as the Colorado River turning yellow and the Flint Water Crisis, and highlights the need for strong communication and community involvement.

  • McCarthy acknowledges the difficulty of making decisions in areas with scientific uncertainty and emphasizes the importance of using the best available science.

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