By Randy Ludlow
A physician and public-health specialist will lead the Ohio Department of Health, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday in making his final Cabinet appointment.
Dr. Amy Acton, 53, who for seven years was an assistant professor in Ohio State University's College of Public Health, will be the director of the 1,100-employee agency, DeWine said.
The Bexley resident, a physician since 1994, most recently served 18 months as a community-research and grants-management officer at the Columbus Foundation.
DeWine praised Acton's background of decades in public health and preventive medicine. The prior two health directors, under then-Gov. John Kasich, were a health department lawyer, Lance Himes, and the former director of the Ohio Turnpike and a health-center marketing director, Rick Hodges.
"We have to rethink how we approach this department," DeWine said, adding that he looks forward to the agency addressing topics such as substance abuse, youth suicide, infant mortality and lead-paint poisoning.
"I wanted someone to help me and other Cabinet members attack some of the issues we face," he said.
Acton said she takes a holistic view of public health and the many factors that feed into wellness -- or illness. She hopes to begin soon to get input from city and county health directors on how the state can better assist them and improve Ohioans' health.
Given that DeWine is an ardent opponent of abortion, and Acton's department regulates abortion clinics, his appointee was asked her position on the issue. She said she has no stance on abortion and will follow state laws regulating the procedure.
Having experienced homelessness as a child in Youngstown -- including a winter spent in a tent -- Acton talked of her personal mission to help reduce the number of youths and young adults who have no safe place to live.
She and her husband, Eric, a Bexley Middle School teacher and cross country coach, have six children.
Acton will be the highest-paid member of DeWine's Cabinet, with an annual salary of $230,000.
Acton earned her medical degree at what at the time was named the Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine, and she completed her internship and residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
She also completed a residency in preventive medicine at Ohio State and earned a master's degree in public health from the university.
(c)2019 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)