Clorox’s Dr. Rosie Lyles Battles Healthcare Facility Infection With Knowledge

May 14, 2015 6:05 PM ET

In July 2014, The Clorox Company welcomed Dr. Rosie D. Lyles as the new Head of Clinical Affairs for Clorox Healthcare, the division which develops cleaning products for healthcare institutions. Prior to joining Clorox, Dr. Lyles worked with the Cook County Health and Hospital Systems in Chicago, educating and training of healthcare workers on best practices to keep facilities clean; from proper hand hygiene to reducing Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae in the environmental. She also wrote more than a dozen scholarly papers, many of which explain the value of clorhexidine gluconate (CHG) bathing in reducing incidents from emerging infectious pathogens on patients’ skin.

Her deep knowledge of preventing the spread of infection is more relevant than ever, now that multidrug-resistant organisms—known as MDROs or “superbugs” to “nightmare bacteria”—are being found more frequently in healthcare facilities, causing widespread concern.

We asked Dr. Lyles a few questions on her career journey, superbugs and her role at Clorox:

When did you realize that you wanted to be a doctor and what made you choose the path of battling infectious diseases?

I wanted to be a doctor since I was a child, so I attended a Talented and Gifted High School for Health Professionals in Dallas, Texas. I had completed most of my senior-year courses a year ahead of time, so I worked 20 hours a week at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas as a medical assistant for an internal medicine doctor. I received a BS in biology from Texas Woman’s University, and had medical schooling and training in Belize, England and the United States.

I wanted to be a gastroenterologist because there are few women in that, and even fewer minorities. I wanted to make a difference in the black community—to get more blacks to get screened for colon cancer. Infectious disease (ID) was my second choice, but in order to do a fellowship in either one, clinical research was a must. I got a clinical-study job in the infectious diseases department in ID in Chicago; it was the first of many clinical studies and interventions to come. That opportunity opened more doors than I could have imagined—my second Masters degree, directing multi-center studies, writing for peer-reviewed publications, and managing numerous employees, from medical assistants to infectious preventionists to medical doctors.

What motivated you to move from Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) to Clorox?

At CCHHS, I was well-known in the infection control community at the state level. And many knew of me as the chlorhexidine gluconate bathing (CHG) expert for reducing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) because of educational videos, oral presentations and numerous clinical studies I had done. In coming to Clorox, however, I am able to use my medical experience and clinical research background on a more national and international infection prevention platform through education and training.

In your role as Clinical Affairs Head at Clorox, what do you spend most of your time doing?

I engage with external organizations and key opinion leaders such as experts in environment/surfaces, skin, and antimicrobial stewardship. I also present at national medical conferences, visits with healthcare organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plus others; and conduct site visits for ongoing clinical studies. Lately I’ve been traveling to discuss challenges within long-term acute care hospitals and acute care hospitals, and how Clorox Healthcare can partner with them in quality improvement.

How do you bring benefit to healthcare facilities’ quality, specifically?

By educating healthcare staff with clinical base evidence to prevent HAIs caused from emerging infectious pathogens (i.e. CRE, C. diff, Ebola), and by teaching horizontal approaches to prevent infections—several approaches should be implemented as a foundation for prevention. Also, training is essential to ensure Clorox products are used properly to prevent HAIs in the environment, and to decolonize patients’ skin with CHG. Lastly, develop standard protocols that involve new and existing Clorox products, and assist with rapid diagnostic testing.

Recent news reports have documented the CRE superbug posing problems in some healthcare facilities across the country, and there’s now a focus on revising sterilization techniques for people and medical devices. What role is Clorox Healthcare playing in helping to fight this particular superbug episode? 

We’re collaborating with numerous organizations in trying to eliminate superbugs in general—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), White House Antibiotic Stewardship SummitClostridium difficile (C.Diff) Foundation, and Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA). It’s important to note that all multi-drug resistant organisms (CRE, KPC, MRSA, and C. diff) must be addressed. So we are teaching the horizontal approaches that play a huge role in preventing superbugs plus a much broader range of HAIs (i.e. surgical site infections).

The horizontal approaches are: standard protocols for proper hand hygiene; universal use of gloves, or gloves and gowns; universal decolonization (CHG as skin antisepsis); antimicrobial stewardship; and environmental cleaning and disinfection. Clorox is helping establish the role that environmental disinfection (manual and UV) and skin-antisepsis can play in drastically reduce HAIs (also known as nosocomial infections).

From a larger perspective, what is Clorox Healthcare doing to help facilities understand and use the right products and protocols to maximize sterile and safe environments? 

Just because a company has a great product does not mean it will necessarily be used properly, so Clorox Healthcare is working with healthcare facilities to offer education, training, and assessment protocols for proper usage that will greatly reduce HAIs.

What is an interesting result you’ve seen from your first several months of working at Clorox?

Besides helping healthcare facilities do better, I am very excited about the CDC asking Clorox Healthcare to participate at the White House Antibiotic Stewardship Summit in May.

When you’re not working or traveling, what do you do to relax?

Well, I have a huge family to spend time with—I have an older brother but I am the 43rd first cousin on my mother’s side alone! I also love to cook, listen to jazz music, and eat dark chocolate.

Visit Clorox Healthcare's website to learn more about how to stop the spread of HAIs with hospital cleaning and disinfection solutions. To read more about The Clorox Company's 'purpose' focus areas such as infection prevention, please visit the Clorox corporate responsibility website.