Napa County’s Karen Smith Chosen to Head California Public Health Department

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Napa County Public Health Officer Karen Smith to head the California Department of Public Health. Smith’s selection was announced Friday, pending state Senate confirmation.

Smith has served as public health officer and deputy director of the county’s Health and Human Services since 2004. She has also been employed as an infectious disease specialist at Queen of the Valley Medical Center for three years. From 2000-2001, she worked as section chief at the California Department of Health Services Tuberculosis Control Branch. She is credited with organizing a critical response to the H1N1 epidemic of 2010-2011, in which 18,000 vaccinations were provided to Napa County residents through mass vaccination clinics.

“This is a huge loss for Napa County, but she will be able to take some model programs that she’s had a key leadership role in and apply that at the state level,” said Mark Diel, chief executive officer of the Children’s Health Initiative of Napa County. “This will broaden her impact that we’ve benefited from for more than a decade. It’s incredible how she’s able to bring the community together.”

Once confirmed, Smith will begin presiding over a department which has recently seen its fair share of turmoil. Two of the department’s top officials—former department director Ronald Chapman and deputy director of policy and programs Kathleen Billingsley—have recently resigned amid controversy.

Read more about Smith’s appointment here. here.