Allegheny County Selects Dr. Karen A. Hacker as New Health Department Director

Updated on May 31, 2013

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, members of the Board of Health and members of the Search Committee announced today that Dr. Karen A. Hacker has been selected as the new Allegheny County Department of Health Director.  Although formal action by the Board of Health will still need to be taken, Dr. Hacker will assume the position in September of this year.

“I am thrilled to be able to announce that Dr. Karen A. Hacker will be the Allegheny County Department of Health’s Director. I’m excited about her appointment and believe that she will be able to lead the Health Department forward with a true focus on community health,” said County Executive Fitzgerald. “We have many challenges before us as we work to improve air quality and infant mortality stats, and reduce obesity and violence in our community. I am positive that Dr. Hacker is the right person to meet those challenges.”

The eight-member search committee was co-chaired by Dr. Edie Shapira, a member of the Board of Health, and Grant Oliphant, CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation. Also serving on the committee were Board Members Dr. Lee Harrison, Dr. Don Burke and Dr. Joylette Portlock, as well as community members Dr. Loren Roth, Peg McCormick Barron and Marc Cherna.  The work of the committee was supported through funding from the Heinz Endowments.

“During a thorough national search for the Director of the Allegheny County Health Department, the search committee vetted numerous highly-qualified candidates. It became clear that one candidate, Dr. Karen Hacker, was our top choice based on her superb background and experience, as well as her passion for public health,” said Dr. Lee H. Harrison, Chair of the Allegheny County Board of Health. “The Board of Health is thrilled to have recruited Dr. Hacker. We look forward to working with her, together with our civic partners, to make Allegheny County a model of community health.”

Dr. Hacker, a native of Illinois, is the current Senior Medical Director for Public and Community Health for the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is also the Chief Medical Officer for the Cambridge Public Health Department, Executive Director of the Institute for Community Health and an Associate Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. A graduate of Northwestern University School of Medicine, Dr. Hacker also earned an MPH from Boston University School of Medical Health.

“We set an extremely high bar for this search, because when it comes to public health, the residents of Allegheny County deserve the very best,” said Grant Oliphant, CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation and Co-Chair of the Search Committee. “We set out to find someone with impeccable medical credentials, a strong appreciation for environment health, and a practical understanding of how to create a state-of-the-art health department. It was a huge amount to ask for but I am pleased to say we found it in Dr. Hacker.”

Dr. Edie Shapira, Co-Chair of the Search Committee, noted today that, after vetting by the Search Committee, Dr. Hacker was interviewed by the full Board of Health. The Board will need to formally take up her appointment at its next meeting, but Dr. Shapira indicated that each Board member has already informally expressed their enthusiasm for Dr Hacker’s candidacy. Her appointment and background will then be provided to the PA Department of Health for its approval.

County Executive Fitzgerald, as well as Dr. Shapira expressed gratitude to Dr. Ronald E. Voorhees, as did Dr. Lee Harrison through a statement:  “The Board of Health is deeply grateful to Dr. Ron Voorhees for his year of committed service as Acting Director during this important period of transition.”  Originally a candidate for the position, Dr. Voorhees withdrew from consideration earlier this year, but intends to remain a staff member of the Allegheny County Health Department moving forward.

“I am excited that Dr. Karen Hacker has accepted the position of Director of ACHD,” said Dr. Voorhees. “I believe that her vision, training and experience will serve the Department well as it moves into this new era for public health.  I will be working closely with her as she transitions into her new role, and hope to continue to serve the wonderful people in ACHD and Allegheny County in the future.”

Dr. Hacker expressed great excitement in the opportunity before her with Allegheny County and outlined some challenges, as well as goals during today’s announcement.

“First, I need to truly understand the Department and the issues facing Allegheny County, including its challenges and assets and I intend to learn about the community and its constituents as part of that process,” said Dr. Hacker.  “I look forward to working collaboratively with the Board of Health, the County Executive, and community partners as we make Allegheny County a healthier place for all.”

Also joining the Executive and the Search Committee in today’s announcement were Board of Health Members William Youngblood, Vice Chair, Joan Cleary, Tony Ferraro and Ellen Stewart, as well as Caren Glotfelty, Senior Director of the Environment Program at The Heinz Endowments.

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