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Director of Department of Health resigns

January 8, 2011

We got this  announcement from the Chafee administration at 6:25pm today.

Governor Lincoln D. Chafee tonight accepted with great regret the resignation of Dr. David R. Gifford MD, MPH, who has served as Director of the Department of Health since 2005. During his tenure, Dr. Gifford provided clear and steady leadership in the pursuit of improved public health for the citizens of Rhode Island. His effective marshaling of resources during the swine flu epidemic of 2009, his success in attracting federal grant money to the state, and his advancement of numerous important public health initiatives will serve as a lasting legacy to his directorship. Dr. Gifford will leave his post at the end of February. Next week, Governor Chafee will announce plans for a search for Dr. Gifford’s replacement.

I reached Gifford by cell phone  and he says it was just time to move on to the next challenges in his life. He wants to focus on the work he did before he became the director of the Department of Health- improving the quality and delivery of health care.

I’ve been doing this for six years, and I’ve enjoyed it a great deal, and I think it’s an opportunity to move on to the next sort of challenges in my life.

Gifford says he doesn’t have a job lined up.  He wants to remain in Rhode Island and it would be a conflict of interest to apply for any positions while he served as director of DOH.  He says he’ll stay with the Department until the end of February.

It doesn’t seem like there was any fishy business here.  Gifford was not up for reappointment by the Chafee administration.  His term had already been renewed until March of 2015. It sounds like he was just ready to leave and the change of administration gave him an opening.

Gifford’s spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth says she was very surprised by his decision.  She calls it a great loss for the Health Department.

I’m very sad to see Dr. Gifford go, but knowing he’s getting back to what he loves doing, as long as he’s happy that’s the important thing.

Gifford says it’s been an absolute pleasure and honor to serve as the director.  He’s most proud of his work responding to the H1N1 crisis, but he’s also incredibly impressed by  the day to day work of the DOH employees, especially under tough budget constraints.

Gifford is not sure where he’ll go from here.  He says he’s considering a wide range of options, including work for an insurance company, health care delivery system, academic institution, or a consulting firm.

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