Dr. Angela Tackett Dearinger, UK physician, appointed commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health

Dr. Angela Tackett Dearinger

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services has named Dr. Angela Tackett Dearinger commissioner of its Department for Public Health.

Dearinger, 43, is board-certified in internal medicine, pediatrics, public health and general preventive medicine. She is an associate professor at the University of Kentucky and is its College of Medicine‘s assistant dean for accreditation of graduate medical education. She has also been  associate chief of staff for education for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in Lexington.

One of Dearinger’s mentors, Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield, the Peter P. Bosomworth Professor Emeritus in the UK College of Public Health, called her a “superlative” choice.

“What she’ll bring to this role is a broad knowledge of what current public health is about,” Scutchfield said. “She understands from an academic perspective and from her relationships with the practice community at local and state levels how you can intervene on a population basis to improve health status.” He later added, “I think she will do a marvelous job. I’m just delighted.”

Dearinger and Scutchfield created the Kentucky Public Health Research Network, the first practice-based research network for public health in Kentucky. Last year Gov. Matt Bevin appointed her to the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure.

She graduated from Transylvania University and the UK College of Medicine. She completed her residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham then earned Master of Public Health degree at UK.

In a news release, state Health Secretary Adam Meier called Dearinger a “proven leader with outstanding qualifications and a thorough understanding of Kentucky’s public health system.”

“The Kentucky Department of Public Health is at a pivotal point in its history, working to address many population-health issues in fiscally challenging times,” Meier said in the release. “Successfully navigating through these complex issues will require great leadership, and to that end I am excited to have Dr. Angela Dearinger join DPH as the public health commissioner.”

Dearinger is the third health commissioner under Bevin, who is running for a second four-year term this fall. She replaces Dr. Jeffrey Howard, who left in August to become a White House fellow, a year-long job as a full-time assistant to senior White House staff, cabinet secretaries or other major federal officials.

Howard became acting commissioner in November 2017, replacing Dr. Hiram Polk, who had brought him into the department and was forced out. Howard was named commissioner in June 2018, despite criticism that he made an inadequate response to a hepatitis A outbreak that began about the time Polk left. The outbreak became the nation’s largest, and has killed 61 people.

Like Howard, Dearinger is from Eastern Kentucky. A Paintsville native, she lives in Versailles with her husband and three children. She said in the news release, “I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as the public health commissioner, and excited to collaborate with public health partners from across the commonwealth to address our shared health-care needs and challenges.”

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