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Justice names Amjad as new state health officer to replace Slemp

Dr. Ayne Amjad

CHARLESTON — A Beckley-based physician is the new West Virginia health officer and commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health, the governor announced on Friday.

Dr. Ayne Amjad replaces Dr. Cathy Slemp.

“We have picked up an incredible West Virginian,” Justice said as he announced the appointment of Amjad during his coronavirus briefing at the Capitol.

“I’ve known of her work on and on and on. She is absolutely a star beyond belief,” Justice said. “I could not be any happier.”

Amjad said she’s excited.

“Everything happened really fast, but I’m excited to be part of the team,” Amjad said. “We’ll start right away to address everything that needs to be done, but today’s my first day.”

Amjad, a native of Raleigh County and a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School, is an internal medicine specialist with a medical degree from Marshall University and a master’s in public health from West Virginia University. She operates two practices in Beckley and Princeton and has practiced medicine in southern West Virginia for a decade.

The Bureau of Public Health is an agency in the Department of Health and Human Resources, answering to Secretary Bill Crouch. The bureau oversees several agencies including the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services and the state lab in South Charleston, both on the front lines of the pandemic.

“I want to welcome (Amjad) to the team,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar. “We’re really fortunate to have somebody of her quality help with the oversight of public health of our state, and certainly during this pandemic.”

The bureau manages the state’s opioid response through the Office of Drug Control Policy, the state’s Emergency Medical Services system, the Chief Medical Examiner’s office, collects health statistics, and manages county health departments.

“The state health officer is a critically important role in DHHR,” Crouch said. “We are certainly happy to have her. The appointment is effective immediately.”

Slemp, who was the state health officer since 2018, submitted a letter of resignation to Justice at the end of June after the governor expressed displeasure with her office’s handling of COVID-19 data and discrepancies in the number of active cases. It’s unknown how many people were interviewed for the position, but Justice confirmed a potential replacement was interviewed the day after Slemp resigned.

Amjad also has been a candidate for public office, running in the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District in 2018.

“She has done so much stuff,” Justice said. “She has an incredible resume and she is excited about being a part of this team. It’s not very often we are able to reach out and really snag a real superstar, but she is.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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