DeWine Announces New ODH Director, Chief Medical Officer

CEDARVILLE, Ohio — About five months after Dr. Amy Acton stepped down as director of the Ohio Department of Health, Gov. Mike DeWine introduced new leadership for the department Thursday.

During his coronavirus update, DeWine announced Stephanie McCloud has accepted the position of director of the ODH. Additionally, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff will be the department’s new chief medical officer.

Since March, the ODH has been fighting two battles: the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and addressing the typical health concerns of Ohioans, DeWine said. As cases for COVID-19 continue to set new records in the state, the ODH needed a key physician at the department to provide a direct line of communication to the governor.

“The Ohio Department of Health is at the core of protecting all of us,” he said. “Once the election is over, we better refocus our efforts in this virus.”

DeWine tapped Vanderhoff to be chief medical officer because “he has years of real life experience leading large teams in successfully dealing with important health care issues here in Ohio,” including preparing for past issues with Ebola and the H1N1 flu pandemic, the governor said.

“He has grappled with the pressing health care issues affecting the entire state, from rural Appalachia to metropolitan Ohio, doing so in a manner that is both collaborative and effective,” DeWine said.

Since 1996, Vanderhoff has been with OhioHealth, serving as its senior vice president and chief medical officer since December 2008. According to the OhioHealth website, he has been responsible for system-wide initiatives to “transition health care delivery through clinical integration with a focus on value.”

In his role with OhioHealth, he has advanced the organization’s physician leadership program, medical education and its Research & Innovation Institute. He’s aligned patient safety and quality at the organization and has led the system’s utilization management efforts and medical affairs, according to the website.

“I’m confident that together we really can overcome COVID-19 and then move on to work to make Ohio one of the healthiest states in the entire nation,” Vanderhoff said. “We certainly are looking forward to the arrival of safe vaccines and making those available to those who choose it in our state.”

When DeWine was first elected, he appointed McCloud director of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. “She has done a phenomenal job managing an agency of 1,800 people and over $28 billion in assets,” DeWine said.

While McCloud isn’t a medical doctor, she understands how state government works and “has the management and administrative expertise we need in these challenging times,” DeWine added.

“The department focuses on the health of the population as a whole,” he said. “Much of that focus is on injury and illness prevention. Director McCloud has many years of experience in the workers’ compensation system doing just that.

Among McCloud’s responsibilities will be ensuring any forthcoming vaccines get out properly and ensuring personnel at the local and state levels are in place, he noted.

“I look forward to joining the pandemic team already on the field. Those folks are working tirelessly, and I look forward to helping them in any way that I can,” McCloud said.

The state is “moving into a tough chapter” with the virus, she allowed. But she reiterated the governor’s words that “we will beat this virus by working together.”

“We’ve been careful in regard to who we selected for these two jobs,” DeWine said. “And we’re very happy with where we are.”

Additionally, DeWine announced Lance Himes – who had been serving as interim director since the departure of Acton and after Dr. Joan Duwve rescinded her application for the position – will be senior deputy for the department. Kathleen Madden, who had been serving as assistant director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management, will be chief of staff at ODH.

Himes will work closely with Maj. Gen. John Harris, commander of the Ohio Army National Guard in the planning and logistics for the distribution of any forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine.

The appointments comes after three consecutive days of record-breaking new cases of COVID-19 in the state. A majority of those cases are because of gatherings with friends and family across the state, he said.

Deaths are also being recorded at a “higher rate than we’ve seen,” he said, with the ODH reporting 33 on Thursday.

The state also recorded Thursday a record number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and record ICU admissions with 2,075 and 541, respectively. Hospitalizations have increased 55% from two weeks ago, DeWine reported.

While some, including President Donald Trump, have asserted the increased number of cases is because of increased testing, DeWine said the increased rate of new cases surpasses the rate of testing.

Since Sept. 24, the total number of tests administered in the state has increased 44%, including Rapid Antigen tests and PCR tests. In that same timeframe, positive cases have increased 280%

Dewine says he is confident in the ODH team that has been assembled, and said he will keep regular direct council with both Vanderhoff and McCloud.

“With a team of great strength, experience, knowledge, commitment, resolve and passion, we are on the offense against the virus,” DeWine said. “For all of us though, every one of us can play a major role.”

That role is getting back to basics, the governor said, including wearing face masks, maintaining physical distance as much as possible and practicing proper personal hygiene. He did not say, however, that there would be additional measures taken by the state at this time.

“So much of this is personal responsibility,” he said. “The most power is not in my hands. The most power is in the hands of every citizen in the state of Ohio.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.