Chicago Department of Public Health

Chicago Department of Public Health moves forward under interim leadership

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After the highly-publicized firing of Dr. Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health is moving forward under interim leadership.

Acting Commissioner Fikirte Wagaw took over the department after Arwady's ouster, with more than 20 years of experience in local public health under her belt.

Wagaw received a master’s degree in health policy and administration from UIC and a BA from the University of Michigan, according to the city's website.

She also served as first-deputy commissioner of CDPH prior to Arwady’s firing.

According to the city, she “oversaw and coordinated cross-department functions and initiatives, guided by and in support of the department’s focus on racial and health equity.”

She also has worked as a community planner, epidemiologist and public health administration with CDPH, according to the city.

Mayor Brandon Johnson has not yet said who will lead the department permanently.

Arwady, who had been with CDPH since 2015, was fired earlier this month. She had been appointed as commissioner just before the outbreak of COVID-19, spearheading efforts to battle the virus in the city.

Last week, she told NBC Chicago about the qualifications needed for the position.

I am more concerned about making sure that whoever leaves this health department has real public health knowledge,” she said. “And so that is really what I am interested in that I know is what the mayor has said he has interested in. And I'm looking forward to see who who will be named. But it needs to be somebody who understands public health and the operations of how to protect the city, not just around mental health, not just around COVID around the amazing range of things that the health department gets to work on.”

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