Dr. Ivan Erzen

Dr. Ivan Erzen

During his long career, Primary Assoc. Prof. Ivan Eržen, MD, PhD, a specialist in public health, has performed a variety of tasks within the public health sector in Slovenia, both at the regional and national level. In addition to his rich professional and research work, where he focuses primarily on the study of health in conjunction with health determinates, he has devoted much of his time to investing in the next generation of public health leaders by teaching students of public health at various levels of education.

He is currently chair-holding Professor of Public Health at the Medical Faculty in Maribor, and Director of the National Institute of Public Health in Slovenia.


Over the past 8 years, Slovenia has undergone a monumental process: the merging of 9 public health laboratories into one, comprehensive national public health institute (NPHI). 

The merger process began after recognizing that the 9 separately functioning laboratory facilities throughout the country were an inefficient use of the talent and resources for addressing public health issues in Slovenia. With a small national population - 2 million - and only 15 Ministry of Health staff dedicated to public health needs, Slovenia had a limited capacity for developing its public health systems among the 9 regional institutes. The merger has eliminated the competition and fragmentation that existed among the original 9 organizations, and has pooled the talents of over 400 staff into the new institute. The new NPHI’s structure has increased the public’s access to public health programs and expertise, which had previously been limited to local or regional projects.

In addition to increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of public health programs at the national scale, the merger has illuminated the need for improved public health training programs in Slovenia. The new NPHI is working to “even out” the level of knowledge and expertise among its public health staff. While some staff had completed extensive training as part of a medical degree concentration, many others lacked basic training in public health, and the institute is committed to training staff – both medically trained and not – to ensure that all staff are equipped with basic public health skills.

To read the full Q&A with Dr. Erzen, click here.

Dr. Ivan Erzen