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Texas health commissioner tapped for joint appointment with UT System and UT Health Northeast

David Lakey, M.D.
David Lakey, M.D.
AUSTIN – Nationally-renowned physician David Lakey, M.D., will step down as commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services to join UT Health Northeast in Tyler and The University of Texas System, both institutions announced Wednesday.

Dr. Lakey, an expert in disease prevention, community health services and infectious disease outbreaks, will serve a dual role as senior vice president for population health at UT Health Northeast and associate vice chancellor for population health at the UT System. He will focus on public health issues such as obesity, tobacco use and poor nutrition and identify ways – beyond direct patient care – to improve the health of Texans statewide.

“Dr. Lakey is highly regarded in public health and medical circles around the state and nation, and his reputation was further cemented by his adept handling of the recent Ebola outbreak,” Chancellor William McRaven said. “His expertise in public health is extensive, and we are thrilled he is joining UT to lead our statewide public health initiative.”

Dr. Lakey said the broad reach of UT and the potential to affect change in health and wellness across the state attracted him to the position.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to work on population and public health in a world-class organization that has a research, educational and patient-care mission,” he said. “The chance to contribute to the health footprint of the UT System’s health institutions and medical schools and to have a positive impact on Texas was a call I could not turn down.”

Prior to being appointed state health commissioner, Lakey spent eight years as a faculty member at UT Health Northeast, so he will be returning to familiar ground, he said.

Compared to other regions of the state, Northeast Texas faces significant public health challenges that have led to higher disease and premature death rates.

“We know our region has a great need for expertise in addressing some of our most challenging health issues, and I can think of no other individual better qualified or as passionate about public health than David Lakey to take on this new initiative to improve the health of Northeast Texans,” said Kirk Calhoun, M.D., president of UT Health Northeast.

UT System Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., said Dr. Lakey also will work with the System’s six health institutions and two new medical schools to guide initiatives that will promote better health for all Texans.

“Dr. Lakey is uniquely positioned to lead a statewide effort in improving the health of Texans, given his distinguished service as the commissioner of the Department of State Health Services,” Dr. Greenberg said.

Lakey was appointed commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in 2007 and is responsible for one of the state’s largest agencies with a staff of 12,000 and an annual budget of $3.3 billion. From 1998 through 2006, he was on the medical faculty of UT Health Northeast as chief of Infectious Disease and medical director over the Center for Pulmonary and Infectious Disease Control and the Public Health Laboratory of East Texas. Additionally, he served as the associate director for Biosecurity and Infectious Disease with UTHealth’s School of Public Health in Houston from 2004 to 2006.

Lakey will be the recipient of the UT System’s prestigious Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STAR) award to support the development and staff recruitment for this new population health initiative. Additionally, he will be named to the Isadore Roosth Distinguished Professorship by UT Health Northeast.

He will assume his new duties Feb. 1, 2015.

About UT Health Northeast

For 65 years, UT Health Northeast has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatment, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, and primary care. Its annual budget of $150 million represents a major economic impact of over $347 million for Northeast Texas. Since 2004, scientists in the Biomedical Research Center have been awarded more than $122 million research dollars. As the university medical center for Northeast Texas, its graduate medical education programs – with residencies in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities across the state and beyond. It also sponsors the residency program in internal medicine at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and an enrollment of more than 214,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $15.6 billion (FY 2015) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.