After two years, district hires new health officer

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2009

Dr. Joel McCullough was hired Thursday as health officer for Spokane County. He will start May 1.

The Spokane Regional Health District board voted unanimously to hire McCullough, a former top health executive at the Chicago Department of Public Health.

The hiring ends a two-year search for the district’s top post. He will manage a staff of more than 200 people and perform the duties of chief medical officer.

His hiring also prompted the board to shelve its review of the district’s management structure. Some board members had shown interest in splitting managerial responsibilities between administrators and a public health physician leader.

“I’m just thrilled this worked out,” said board member David Crump, who led the health officer recruitment efforts.

McCullough lives in Portland. The Oregon job he accepted last year was eliminated because of budget issues, prompting him to seek the Spokane position.

McCullough’s starting salary will be $140,000. It will rise after his licensure by the state of Washington.

Before his eight years in Chicago public health management, McCullough was in the preventive medicine residency program and had an occupational and environmental medicine fellowship at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Also, he studied infectious disease at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. His medical degree is from Vanderbilt University.

McCullough arrives at a time of challenges for public health. The state’s budget problems and the health district’s broad role in Spokane County are forcing cuts in the services.

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