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Governor Whitmer Appoints Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian as Chief Medical Executive, Thanks Dr. Joneigh Khaldun for Leadership During Pandemic


September 24, 2021


Governor Whitmer Appoints Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian as Chief Medical Executive, Thanks Dr. Joneigh Khaldun for Leadership During Pandemic

After serving as the state's top doctor for over two years, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun has accepted a new career opportunity outside of state government.

LANSING, Mich. - Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian will serve as chief medical executive for the state of Michigan beginning on Friday, October 1. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who currently serves as chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, has accepted a new position to pursue an opportunity outside of state government, which will be announced in the coming weeks. The State of Michigan will conduct a nationwide search to select a permanent chief medical executive.

"Thanks to Dr. J's around-the-clock leadership, our state acted quickly with the best available data and science to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save countless lives during the pandemic," said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. "Michigan has one of the lowest number of cases per capita, and numerous studies show that the tough decisions we made helped save thousands of lives. At the height of COVID-19, we stood side by side to keep our state safe through one of the most difficult periods in our lives. Dr. J also sounded the alarm on COVID-19 disproportionately impacting people of color, and she co-chaired the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which has made significant progress towards reducing COVID-19 mortality rate disparities for Michiganders of color. While we wish we could keep Dr. J at the helm, I wish her the best of luck as she moves on to a well-deserved opportunity. The state of Michigan and I are incredibly grateful for your service."

"I am proud to appoint Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian as chief medical executive. Michiganders across the state have benefited from Dr. Bagdasarian's expertise through her work leading the state's COVID-19 testing strategy to keep everyone safe," continued Whitmer. "Dr. Bagdasarian is a world-renowned medical expert with a wealth of experience. She is a proven leader who will continue to guide us through the pandemic. I look forward to collaborating with her as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and keep Michigan healthy."

"I want to personally thank Dr. Joneigh Khaldun for her unwavering dedication and service to our state. Her extensive knowledge and direction have been invaluable as we navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and she has been a critical leader of our Racial Disparities Task Force," said Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. "She has been a tremendous example of what it means to be a leader, as she served not only as our Chief Medical Executive but also continued to provide lifesaving healthcare to patients on the frontlines of this pandemic in emergency rooms. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked alongside Dr. Khaldun and to have learned from her. We welcome Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian to our team as we continue to take bold actions to protect public health across Michigan."

"Dr. Khaldun has been on the forefront of Michigan's COVID response even before March 2020 when she was carefully monitoring the unfolding of what quickly became a pandemic," said Elizabeth Hertel, Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "Her leadership, consultation, determination and candor have been invaluable in guiding the decisions that have always been in the best interest of keeping Michiganders safe and healthy. She has served in multiple roles in the interest of public service throughout her medical career and no matter where her journey takes her we know it will be to continue to be a champion of community health. I, and the entire MDHHS team, respect and appreciate the dedication and sacrifices she made alongside all of us with the goal of protecting our state and its residents. We know we will continue these efforts together."

"Dr. Bagdasarian has been serving as a senior public health physician at MDHHS during the pandemic, focused on testing strategies and community access, and most recently has been on sabbatical working with the World Health Organization on COVID -19 planning," said Hertel. "We are thrilled that an infectious diseases expert with her global experience will be able to step into the chief medical executive role quickly and seamlessly. Especially during a time when we need to maintain our momentum and focus on reducing COVID cases and hospitalizations, and increasing vaccinations."

With a background in internal medicine and infectious diseases, Dr. Bagdasarian has worked in Michigan and internationally for the last decade, authoring 40 publications on topics in infectious diseases and public health. Since early 2020, she has provided technical guidance on outbreak preparedness and COVID-19to the international community. For the last year she has served the State of Michigan in the role of Senior Public Health Physician with the Department of Health and Human Services, where she oversaw the SARS-CoV-2 testing strategy for the state.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian received her medical degree from Wayne State University and her master of public health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She completed training in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Michigan Medicine.

"These past months have been full of unprecedented challenges and change on the public health front, and there is much work to be done," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian. "We can't thank Dr. Khaldun enough for her work and leadership during her years with the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and MDHHS.  I am honored to be named the state's chief medical executive. I know we have a committed, resolute, and untiring team that cares deeply about public health and moving past this current crisis. I look forward to collaborating with MDHHS and the Governor's office and other state departments to address this challenge and any others that may present in the future."

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the current chief medical executive, will transition out of her role, with her last day of service to state government on Thursday, September 30.

Before serving as chief medical executive, Dr. Khaldun was the Director and Health Officer for the Detroit Health Department, where she oversaw a robust community health assessment, spear-headed new human service and maternal and infant health efforts and led Detroit's response to the largest Hepatitis A outbreak in modern U.S. history. Under Dr. Khaldun's guidance, the state enacted multiple public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives during the pandemic. She also quickly recognized the disparate impact COVID-19 had on communities of color, and the state was one of the first states in the nation to form a task force to reduce these disparities and bring down the mortality rate. Due to her leadership, President Biden selected Dr. Joneigh Khaldun to be a member of the national COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

"I am so grateful to Governor Whitmer, Director Hertel, and all of the state departments, local health departments, health systems, physicians and community organizations across Michigan that I have had the privilege to work with over the last five years in my roles at the Detroit Health Department and the State of Michigan," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy of health, MDHHS. "This work has been the honor of my life. I've been inspired by the entire MDHHS team and their expertise and dedication to serving the people of Michigan. Dr Bagdasarian is an accomplished public health expert and epidemiologist and I am confident she will serve the state well in this new role.  This is very bittersweet, but I am excited for this new and unique opportunity to continue doing my life's work of advancing bold programs and policies that promote the health of all communities."

The State of Michigan has begun a search to select a chief medical executive. An announcement will be made when the position is filled.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun