The Allegheny County Board of Health has appointed Ronald Voorhees as interim director. This comes after the board ousted County Health Director Bruce Dixon after 20 years on the job. He'll be leaving in early June.
"It is the intention of the board to hold a national search for a permanent director, and that process will begin. We've already posted the job description," said Board Chair Lee Harrison.
In the meantime, Voorhees will take the helm. He previously served as the deputy state epidemiologist with the New Mexico Department of Health and has long experience in public health in both infectious and chronic diseases. He's been the chief of epidemiology at the Allegheny County Health Department since August of 2008 and is also a visiting professor in the department of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
"We wanted to find a strong candidate to guide the Health Department during this interim period, and we were lucky to have a very strong candidate — Dr. Voorhees," said Harrison.
Voorhees said he's going to start by looking at each program in the county to determine efficacy.
"Along with the strategic planning group from the Board of Health and Rich Fitzgerald's vision theme for public health, we'll be looking for how to maximize and optimize our activities so we can have the greatest impact on public health," he said.
Voorhees added there is a challenge in that the health department is small for the population it serves, which is why it's important to optimize all programs. Voorhees will take over as interim director June 6.
Dixon has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the county claiming the board was forced by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to fire him. Such a move would overstep his bounds and tramp upon the powers of the board.