Deposit this one in the “WTF?” file. Secretary of the Health Department Dennis Smith has appointed Karen McKeown as the new State Health Officer.
First, you should know what does the Department of Public Health does for the citizens of Wisconsin.
Public health makes sure that:
- We learn ways to improve our own health, and learn to avoid behaviors that lead to chronic disease, disability and early death;
- Our children are protected against lead poisoning and pregnant women are aware of the harmful effects associated with exposure to mercury and other hazardous substances;
- We know when to see our health care provider and know which screening tests we should receive;
- A record is maintained of every birth, death, marriage, divorce and adoption that occurs in Wisconsin so that we can prove the details of these important events;
- Our children get preventive care for their teeth that helps prevent decay;Children and adults get their immunizations on time;
- Pregnant women and new mothers have access to nutritious foods for themselves and their babies;Mothers and fathers do a better job of parenting and our children thrive;
- Fewer babies die in infancy;
- There are properly trained EMTs and paramedics to serve us in emergencies;
- Fewer of us get sick, suffer injury or disability;Communicable disease outbreaks are discovered early and interventions applied quickly;
- New residents gain access to the necessary health services quickly;
- Our restaurants use appropriate sanitation practices, our hotels and motels are clean and safe, and public swimming pools do not spread disease;
- We know how to protect our families in emergencies and have access to resources to help us recover from flooding, severe weather and tornadoes.
It’s an important department and the role of Public Health Officer is an important one for the health of many of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable citizens. Yet despite the importance of this department and this position, Ms. McKeown is described as
a young nurse from Tyler, Texas (pop. 109,000).
Hmmm. A “young nurse” from Texas. Is a “young nurse” really up to the job? Will she be able to execute the programs needed by Wisconsin? The reaction from Wisconsin State Public Health officials answers that question.
“Who is THAT?” asked one official in a public health department located in southern Wisconsin.
A press release … was released Monday. “Karen brings a wealth of knowledge across the health policy and public health spectrum and is a strong and effective leader,” Smith says in the announcements.
But insiders point out that McKeown, who as the state’s health officer is the administrator of the Division of Public Health, appears to have no background or degrees in public health, a specialty within the vast arena of health care.
She has been a nurse for 10 years at the East Tyler Medical Center, where she managed a 50-bed oncology ward at the mid-sized hospital, but such clinical work caring for individuals in a medical setting is very different than overseeing the health of the community at large, I’m told.
Healthcare and issues of public health are of significant consequence to the citizens of Wisconsin. As healthcare and public health costs continue to rise, and funds continue to fall, we must be sure we have the best and brightest people overseeing these departments and their limited resources. As citizens, we have a right to know that the people appointed to oversee public health programs (and a significant budget) are qualified to execute on the plans and programs vital to our interests. We must avoid the potential for fiscal mismanagement through ignorance and inexperience. Ms. McKeown seems to be both ignorant and inexperienced.
McKeown’s bona fides are indeed questionable.
McKeown, who was homeschooled by her mother, also earned an associate of arts degree from Tyler Junior College, a two-year school, in 1998 and a bachelor’s degree in nursing two years later from the University of Texas branch in Tyler.
[UPDATE: McKeown does have an MSN from an online program offered by Yale University, but it is not in Public Health]
Contrast her experience to the most recent Public Health Officer appointed by Governor Doyle.
Dr. Seth Foldy, former Gov. Jim Doyle’s last appointment to the post, was a pediatrician and the former Milwaukee health commissioner. He also held a master’s degree in public health from the Wisconsin Medical College, according to the department’s press release about his appointment in 2010.
I find it more than coincidental that this appointment follows on the heels of Governor Walker’s Texas sojourn. One cannot help but wonder what political chip was called in by one of Walker’s wealthy donors to secure Ms. McKeown’s appointment. Political favors putting the health of Wisconsin’s citizens at risk. How marvelous!
Does Wisconsin really want a Governor who is beholden to wealthy out-of-state interests? First the “Deer Czar” and now the Public Health Officer?
What other state appointments will go to residents of the Lone Star State?
Ironically, even when he has the opportunity to create a job for a Wisconsin resident, he outsources it to Texas.
Political cronyism rarely gets this obvious. Yet another reason to Recall Scott Walker.