The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed a new public health director Tuesday with more than 25 years of medical experience, and one supervisor said she’ll be tough in the fight against upcoming “uncertainty” in federal health care under President Donald Trump.
Barbara Ferrer, who has been a senior leader of public health agencies in Boston and Massachusetts, was most recently the chief strategy officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and oversaw key program areas, including food, health and well-being.
Before that, Ferrer served as the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. During her tenure, Boston saw a decrease in the rates of childhood obesity, asthma in public housing and smoking, as well as a significant reduction in the infant mortality rate in black families.
At the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Ferrer worked as the director of health promotion and chronic disease prevention and of the division of maternal and child health.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was enthusiastic about the choice.
“Dr. Ferrer is uniquely qualified to lead and serve Los Angeles County’s diverse populations and has a gift for engaging youth and families,” Ridley-Thomas said. “I look forward to the energy and creativity that she will bring to protecting the health of our communities during this time of uncertainty in federal healthcare policy.” The “uncertainty” presumably referred to policies of the incoming Trump administration.
Ferrer has a doctorate in social welfare from Brandeis University and master’s degrees in public health from Boston University and in education from UMass, Boston. She earned her bachelor’s degree at UC Santa Cruz.
Ferrer will assume responsibility for the Department of Public Health on Feb. 6 at a salary of $376,635. The department has a budget of more than $900 million and nearly 4,000 employees.
Dr. Jonathan Fielding retired in 2014 as the last permanent head of the Department of Public Health. Cynthia Harding is currently serving as interim director and Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser is the department’s interim health officer.
—City News Service
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