We seem to be seeing the second chapter of how to select and then appoint someone to serve as commissioner of the Department of Health and Environmental Control. When Gov. Nikki Haley selected the first person to fill this position after her election, she selected someone who obviously had no education or experience in the very complex responsibilities of this department.
Since Catherine Templeton’s departure, Eleanor Kitzman has apparently been pegged as the person for the job by the governor, without seeking other applications. That is a departure from the method used for filling such important and complicated roles.
Having served in leadership positions in three states over a period of more than 30 years, I fully appreciate the complexity and importance of health departments. I have never seen anyone appointed to such a position without a background in health care.
One of my earliest metropolitan positions was as deputy health officer for the Birmingham/Jefferson County, Ala., Health Department in the 1960s. At the time I had a medical degree and had spent two years as heart disease control officer for the Alabama State Health Department, having been assigned there by the U.S. Public Health Service. When I heard that my superior, the county health officer was planning to retire in a few years, I expressed an interest in his position. I was advised that to be considered I would need board certification in public health and would need my masters degree in public health in order to sit for board certification.
I took leave from my position and obtained my masters degree. I was subsequently appointed health officer of Jefferson County.
I am further disturbed by the many highly-qualified people who opted to leave their jobs with DHEC when they saw the handwriting on the wall with the appointment of Ms. Templeton and her request that all management team members submit their resignations during her realignment of the agency staff and reduction of the number of districts from eight to four.
It is hoped that this entire fiasco will pass someday and we can return to protecting the health and environment of our citizens.
Joe Chambers, M.D.