Innovator: Marissa Levine, MD, MPH
Position: Commissioner, Virginia Department of Health
VHIN: Your one-year anniversary as Virginia State Health Commissioner is approaching, what have been the most exciting and challenging aspects of this appointment?
ML: Responding to a new threat to the US and Virginia, Ebola, was a significant challenge. Ebola forced us to re-evaluate our prior 13 years of public health emergency preparedness to be sure we could handle a new and deadly communicable disease for which there was neither vaccine nor specific treatment. In addition, we concurrently had to respond to the public concern and media frenzy to assure that accurate public health guidance was disseminated widely. Given the concerns raised about the Centers for Disease Control in the early days of Ebola in the US, it was particularly important for Virginia’s governmental public health system to be seen as competent and capable. The exciting aspect of this response was the great coordination and unification that occurred in both the public and private sectors. Our experience demonstrates how well positioned Virginia is to come together around any crisis or serious issue potentially impacting the people of Virginia. It is that same level of collaboration that we will need to improve the health of the people of Virginia.