Louisville surgeon Hiram Polk named state health commissioner

Dr. Hiram Polk

Dr. Hiram Polk, a prominent surgeon from Louisville, has been appointed as the commissioner for the state Department for Public Health. He will report to Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, a Louisville lawyer who is secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Polk, 80, is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and received his surgical training at Washington University in St. Louis. He was a fellow at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He served as an endowed professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Louisville from 1971 to 2005, where he trained more than 330 surgical residents and started one of the world’s first hand-transplant programs. He remains a professor emeritus and in March called for the resignation of U of L President James Ramsey.

Polk is a native of Jackson, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Harvard Medical School. He is internationally recognized as a surgeon and is editor emeritus of the American Journal of Surgery, according to his Wikipedia biography. He has been Kentucky chair of the American Cancer Society and a director of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. He is a steward of The Jockey Club and a director of the Biomedical Research Foundation, which funds research on veterans’ health.

“Many health issues plague the commonwealth, from chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, to the serious substance abuse and addiction crisis, especially in pregnant women,” Polk said in a state news release. “Meanwhile, we must be vigilant and prepared to respond to emerging public health issues such as the Zika virus or a potential hepatitis C outbreak from intravenous drug use. I am excited to take on the role of public health commissioner because it gives me an opportunity to direct policy and implement pilot programs to address these very serious issues.”

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