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Who will replace Dr. Gifford?

January 13, 2011

The  rumor mill is churning about who might be the next Director of the Department of Health (DOH).  Here’s the run down on who folks are whispering about-

Dr. Robert Crausman- Crausman is currently the Chief Medical Officer at Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, but he’s also a veteran of the Department of Health.  His positions there included director of the Center for Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, chief administrative officer of the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, and incident commander of the Health Department’s H1N1 pandemic response.  I’ve interviewed Crausman on everything from medical errors to the latest communicable disease.  But when I asked him about whether he was applying for the job, he offered no comment.

Dr. Nick Tsiongas- Tsiongas has been a fixture of RI’s political and health care world for a while now.  His day job is senior area Medical Director for the US Postal Service, but he’s better known as the former President of the Rhode Island Medical Society, once chair of HealthRIght– a working group on implementing health reform in the Ocean State- and four term Representative in the General Assembly.  If I’m at a press conference about health care reform, Tsiongas is usually there.  He even spoke on a WRNI panel about the overhaul efforts.  But Tsiongas offered no comment about his interest in the DOH job.

Dr. Pablo Rodriguez- Rodriguez is incredibly involved in the community- from serving on Chafee’s transition team, to hosting a call in show on Latino Public Radio  and being the Associate Chair for Community Relationships  in the OBGYN department at Women and Infants’ Hospital.  Somehow he has time to be a practicing  Gynecologist and the CEO at Women’s Care in Pawtucket.

His list of former positions goes on and on, including  former Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island and former chair of the Rhode Island Foundation, the International Institute of RI and the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee.

When I asked Rodriguez if he was interested in the job, he just laughed and said “Why do people want the worst for me? It’s a thankless job.”  He says he’s not interested, but he’s flattered.  At least five people he knows  have already called and asked if he’s going to be the next director of the Department of Health.  One person was even outraged that he hadn’t received the position yet.

Dr. Kathleen HittnerHittner is an anesthesiologist, but she’s best known as a hospital executive. Until recently, she was the President and  CEO of  Miriam Hospital.  Now she’s been shifted to the role of senior vice president of community health for Lifespan,  Miriam’s parent company.  In 1991, Hittner was  the first female president of the Rhode Island Medical Society.

I don’t interact with Hittner very often because of her executive position, but I remember her being warm and approachable at a press conference about a ban on smoking at the hospital.  From what I’ve heard she was a very effective leader at the Miriam.  I called Hittner’s office to ask if she was interested in the job at the Department of Health, but she hasn’t called back.

What do you think?  Who would you choose as the next Director of the Department of Health?  Am I missing anyone?

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