PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Surrounded by a high-powered search team and members of the Allegheny County Board of Health, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented the county’s new health director, Dr. Karen Hacker of Boston.
Given that residence, KDKA political editor Jon Delano asked the first question.
Delano: “Boston Bruins versus the Pittsburgh Penguins?”
Hacker: “I cannot tell a lie. I am at this moment a Bruins fan, but I can be converted.”
And she will be.
More importantly, she was the unanimous choice of the search committee to replace the late Dr. Bruce Dixon.
“She has superb academic credentials, a lifelong passion for public health issues, and over 20 years of on-the-ground experience as a public health leader,” noted Dr. Edith Shapira, who co-chaired the search committee.
Dr. Hacker pledged a renewed and re-energized public health focus.
“While the county has already done a lot, there is much to do, and you know many of the problems. There are environmental issues in air and water,” she said. “There are disparities in health care access, infant mortality issues, asthma, obesity, cardiovascular issues and violence that are all demanding our attention.”
The new director was non-committal about hot button issues like super-sized soda pop and trans-fats, but says this area ought to be a public health leader.
“I think there is incredible potential here to be a national leader,” she said. “And whether it’s specifically in obesity, tobacco, or air and water quality, I don’t know if I can stake my claim on that as yet, but I think there is incredible potential, absolutely, to rise above and be very visible in our efforts.”
Dr. Hacker’s appointment will be approved by the county Board of Health and then will have to be signed off by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
County officials expect her to be on the job by September, long after the Penguins have beaten the Bruins.