Search For State Health Director Begins Again

Search For State Health Director Begins Again

COLUMBUS — The search is back on for a new State Health Director. It follows a bizarre turn of events Thursday when Gov. Mike DeWine at first announced he had hired a new director, Dr. Joan Duwve of South Carolina. Duwve held a similar job with the state there and has already been dealing with South Carolina’s response to the coronavirus.

DeWine told a statewide TV audience Thursday that Dr. Duwve would be joining his cabinet in about a month. “I am very confident in her ability,” DeWine said at approximately 2:41pm Thursday. Just under six hours later, the governor announced in a written statement that Duwve “withdrew her name from consideration for the position of Director of the Ohio Department of Health, citing personal reasons.” Dewine’s communication staff declined to provide additional information as to why Duwve had first accepted, and then rejected the job.

The move came as a surprise to Statehouse observers and people in the medical community. “I just have never heard of something like this happening before,” said Zach Jenkins, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Cedarville University. Duwve was set to replace Dr. Amy Acton who became a lightning rod for controversy as a result of her many health orders, especially during the early months of the COVID-19 crisis.

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Acton had plenty of supporters, but critics staged loud protests calling for her removal. “There was a lot of outrage and criticism against her. There were protesters outside her home and as you can imagine it’s very stressful on an individual,” Jenkins said. Acton resigned in June without saying exactly what led to her leaving her job, although she did mention many 19 and 20 hour days of work.

Whether Acton’s experience with protests played a part in Duwve’s decision to pull out of the Ohio job is unknown. At first Duwve appeared to be a good fit for the position. DeWine prides himself as having a highly qualified cabinet, experienced in federal, state and local government, with some members having worked for him for 20 years or more.

Duwve had only been in her current job in South Carolina since April but took the spotlight often in that state’s response to the coronavirus. She grew up in northeast, Ohio and had worked in Indiana. One of her degrees is from Ohio State University.

DeWine now begins the search for another health director. Jenkins said that person will be facing many challenges during this pandemic and a lot of pressure. " They are going to have to be able to communicate effectively, especially when the information is complicated and keeps changing," Jenkins said.