Leana Wen, M.D. Begins Tenure As Baltimore’s Health Commissioner


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BALTIMORE, MD (January 14, 2015) — With Leana Wen, M.D. officially beginning her tenure tomorrow as Commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department, today she announced details of her priority areas and several key additions to her senior leadership team. Dr. Wen replaces Dr. Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, who had served as interim health commissioner since May 2014 and has been named Director of the Mayor’s Office of Human Services.

“I am eager to join Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration and work to tackle the huge health challenges that face our city,” said Dr. Wen.  “In my first 100 days, we will be launching interdisciplinary campaigns focusing on three critical issues: Youth wellness, substance abuse, and population health.”

Dr. Wen has outlined an ambitious agenda beginning with a listening tour of community organizations, faith groups, hospitals, federally qualified health centers, business coalitions, foundations and other organizations to decide how to best to address her three priorities areas that include:

  • Promoting youth wellness including addressing asthma rates, vision health, school readiness, and youth violence;
  • Building public and private partners across the city to tackle the issue of substance abuse, preventing overdose deaths, and expanding access to integrated behavioral health services;
  • Developing innovations in population health by convening community and stakeholder groups to improve healthcare systems for vulnerable populations, including older adults.

As health commissioner, Dr. Wen will oversee a wide-ranging department, whose responsibilities include the management of acute communicable diseases, animal control, chronic disease prevention, emergency preparedness, food service inspections, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD), maternal-child health, school health, senior services, and youth violence issues. The agency employs a workforce of more than 1,100 employees and manages a budget of approximately $126 million.

Dr. Wen is a practicing emergency physician and public health leader who most recently served as director of patient-centered care and assistant professor of emergency medicine and health policy at George Washington University. A Harvard-trained physician and Rhodes Scholar, Dr. Wen is a nationally-renowned researcher in patient-doctor communication, author of the critically-acclaimed book, When Doctors Don’t Listen, and TED speaker. She has worked as a community organizer in Los Angeles and St. Louis, served as president of national medical organizations, and consulted for the World Health Organization and Brookings Institution.

Today Dr. Wen also announced several additions to the Health Department’s senior leadership team.  “These individuals bring nearly 70 combined years of public health experience, including many years at the Baltimore City Health Department. This is the best team possible to join the other committed leaders in the department and further the Mayor’s and my vision of tackling our three priority areas.”

Rianna Matthews-Brown, JD has been named as Dr. Wen’s Chief of Staff.  Matthews-Brown is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law with more than 10 years of experience in health policy and administration.  Previously, Matthews-Brown worked at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) where she served as Chief of Staff for Behavioral Health and was later appointed Acting Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Health. Prior to DHMH, she served in a number of senior roles at BCHD including as director of both the Office of External Affairs and Office of Legislative Affairs.

Olivia Farrow, JD will serve as Deputy Health Commissioner for Youth Wellness and Community Health.  She will spearhead the campaign against substance abuse, and will oversee Assistant Commissioner of Maternal and Child Health and co-leader of B’More for Healthy Babies Rebecca Dineen, who has been tapped to lead the youth wellness campaign. Farrow re-joins BCHD from the Mayor’s Office of Human Services, where she has served as director since 2012. Farrow started her career at BCHD in 1985 and has served in a number of capacities including as Deputy Health Commissioner then as Interim Health Commissioner.

Dawn O’Neill, MPH will serve as the Deputy Health Commissioner for Population Health and Disease Prevention. She will lead the third campaign of ensuring community and stakeholder engagement in population health and improving access and quality. O’Neill is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Evergreen Health Cooperative. Over the course of her 20-year public health career, she has served as Deputy Health Officer at the Howard County Health Department and as Chief of Staff at BCHD.

Joneigh Khaldun, MD, MPH will serve as an Assistant Commissioner for Clinical Services/Chief Medical Officer.  Dr. Khaldun is a board-certified emergency physician and public health expert who was most recently Director of Health Policy in the University of Maryland Department of Emergency Medicine. She completed her M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and a policy fellowship at George Washington University. She has worked in federal and local policy roles including at the United States Department of Health and Human Services.


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