Gov. Inslee appoints Dr. Umair Shah as new state secretary of health

Dr Umair Shah

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Inslee appointed Dr. Umair Shah as Washington’s new Secretary of Health, replacing Dr. John Wiesman, who is departing for a faculty position at University of North Carolina.

Dr. Shah was born in Pakistan, raised in Ohio, and currently serves as the executive director and local health officer for Harris County Public Health in Texas — he has led the county through several health crises before, including H1N1, Zika virus, Ebola and COVID-19, among other emergencies like hurricanes.

“Dr. Shah brings an unrivaled expertise, knowledge and passion for public health,” Inslee said. “His leadership will help us lead Washington state through the next crucial phase of this pandemic. He is uniquely suited to continue our nation-leading response. An immigrant, originally from Pakistan and raised in Ohio, equity is incorporated and considered in every decision as he leads organizations to ensure the health and safety of everyone.”

Shah will start as Secretary of Health starting December 21.

“I am beyond honored to be asked by Governor Inslee to serve as Washington’s next secretary of health, building onto the dedicated team and strong leadership championed by John Wiesman at the Department of Health,” Shah said. “Without question, the number one priority for me is to work with the team to continue the fight against COVID-19 and help Washingtonians through these challenging times.”

Shah served as the president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) in 2017, and represented nearly 3,000 public health departments nationwide. In 2019, he received the Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work from the American Public Health Association.

Wiesman announced in February that he would be taking a position at his alma mater, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

“Even before this pandemic, John showed himself to be one of the most advanced public health minds in the country and his new job confirms that,” Inslee said. “His dedication to science, data and public health best practices have driven his decisions the entire time he has served in this role. Over the past year, his work has saved the lives of many of his fellow Washingtonians, and we should all be forever grateful for the work John, and his team, are doing for our state.”

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