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Gov. Inslee appoints Dr. Umair A. Shah as Washington's new secretary of health

Dr. Umair A. Shah will replace John Wiesman as secretary of health at the end of Gov. Inslee’s second term on Jan. 10, 2021.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Dr. Umair A. Shah as Washington's new secretary of health on Tuesday. 

Shah is replacing John Wiesman in the role and will start on Dec. 21. Wiesman will exit on Jan. 10. 

Shah currently serves as the executive director and local health authority for Harris County Public Health in Texas, which includes Houston.

“Dr. Shah brings an unrivaled expertise, knowledge and passion for public health,” Inslee said. “His leadership will help us lead Washington state through the next crucial phase of this pandemic. He is uniquely suited to continue our nation-leading response. An immigrant, originally from Pakistan and raised in Ohio, equity is incorporated and considered in every decision as he leads organizations to ensure the health and safety of everyone.”

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The secretary of health enforces all laws created to protect public health and rules established by the State Board of Health.

Both Wiesman and state health officer Kathy Lofy have been instrumental in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wiesman accepted a faculty appointment at the University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health. He will leave his job at the end of Inslee’s second term on Jan. 10, 2021.

“Serving as the secretary of health under Governor Inslee’s leadership has been a true honor, and leading the dedicated employees of the Department of Health is an opportunity I have treasured,” Wiesman said in a statement in May. “As public servants, we have shared the commitment to do right by the people of our state and to do our best to improve the lives of all of our residents. I look forward to serving as your secretary of health through the end of the year.”

Wiesman was appointed by Gov. Inslee in April 2013.