Detroit health chief appointed Michigan's chief medical executive, will oversee predecessor

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Detroit Health Department's director will leave her job to become the newest addition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s cabinet.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun will take on the role of the state’s chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, Whitmer and department Director Robert Gordon said Thursday.

Joneigh Khaldun

A practicing emergency physician at Henry Ford Hospital, Khaldun will provide overall medical leadership for the state as well as oversee the department’s behavioral health, developmental disabilities, population health, aging and adult services and medical services units. She starts in her position April 15. 

“Dr. Khaldun will bring strong expertise, diverse experience, and deep passion to state government,” Whitmer said in a statement. “She will become a critical part of our team as we work to improve health across our state.”

Khaldun will join two other chief deputy directors within the department: Elizabeth Hertel and Erin Frisch.

Khaldun will oversee her predecessor, Dr. Eden Wells, who was given a $180,000-a-year civil service “advisory position” job in the department at the end of last year. The Population Health Administration, within which Wells' works, will report up to Khaldun, said department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin. 

In December, Wells was bound over on charges of involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice and lying to a law enforcement officer connected to the 2014-15 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Flint area.

Khaldun is well prepared to advise the governor on public health issues, the department said, because of her experience in other big-city health departments, including the vaccination of 8,500 Detroit residents during a recent Hepatitis A outbreak.  

Khaldun has worked in her current Detroit job since 2017, when she replaced Abdul El-Sayed, who had resigned to run for governor against Whitmer. Prior to that position, she had been the Detroit Health Department’s medical director since 2015 and was chief medical officer for the Baltimore City Health Department before that.

"Dr. Khaldun has done great work for the city, rebuilding the health department and tackling challenging problems like the opioid epidemic, teen pregnancy and infant mortality,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement.

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