Medical Officer and Exam Proctor Leads by Example

Posted Jun 15, 2019

Alsan Bellard

For the past three years, Alsan Bellard, Jr., MD, MBA, CCHP-P, has organized and proctored the CCHP exam at the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, where he serves as health services medical officer. On average about 10 employees sit for the annual exam at DC DYRS, although 25 people took it the first year it was offered.

“Staff members typically form a study group to prepare for the exam, meeting weekly for several months prior to the test. After one year of employment, our agency pays for staff members to take the exam,” says Bellard. RNs and NPs who pass the CCHP exam even receive a financial incentive.

A Template for Optimal Care

Earlier in his career, Bellard worked in underserved rural and inner city areas, and he says his move into corrections made sense, as there he would be able to help yet another underserved population. “Most of the adolescents in our system are talented, creative individuals who simply have gone off course for a myriad of reasons,” says Bellard, a pediatrician by trade. “I feel that my presence alone is a powerful statement as to what they can achieve.”

When Bellard joined DC DYRS six years ago, it was his first-ever job in correctional health care. Right away he purchased the Standards for Health Services in Juvenile Detention and Confinement Facilities. “I needed a template on how to organize our services to ensure that we were providing the best level of care based on national guidelines and best practices, instead of on instincts,” he says.

To be effective in this role, Bellard wanted to have a thorough understanding of the standards. That led him to achieve CCHP certification in 2016. At that time, he was both the health services administrator and the responsible physician at DC DYRS, overseeing all medical and behavioral health services at the agency’s two secure facilities.

Champion of Certification

Bellard has been a champion of the CCHP program at his facility ever since. “It was important that I set an example to my direct reports to encourage them to pursue certification of their own,” says Bellard. He has since also earned specialty certification for physicians, or CCHP-P.

When Bellard addresses new staff, he incorporates the value of CCHP certification into his introductions. Because most health care professionals have never before entered a secure facility, he starts by explaining the distinctiveness of the environment: “There are both unique challenges and unique opportunities in corrections, and it is imperative that we understand those issues in our efforts to provide good care.”

Bellard describes the CCHP program as a great opportunity for correctional health professionals to learn about the requirements for maintaining quality health services and to acquire the confidence necessary to work in this environment. Staff earning certification has “without a doubt” helped improve the quality of health services at DC DYRS, and has led to both facilities achieving accreditation, he says.

“As the leader of our department, I believe that I set the tone for how important the work that we do is, as perceived by not only my direct reports but also by our peers on the custody side,” he adds. “By constantly promoting both the CCHP program and NCCHC accreditation, I have made quality health care part of the mission of our entire agency.”

This article was written by Katie Przychodzen, MA, CCHP, NCCHC’s marketing and communications manager. It first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of CorrectCare, Vol. 33, Issue 2.