Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Governor Fletcer names Secretary of Health and Family Services

Press Release Date:  Monday, November 21, 2005  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Michael Goins
Jodi Whitaker

Mark Birdwhistell Brings Extensive Health and Human Service Background to New Role

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher today named Mark D. Birdwhistell secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).             

“Ensuring affordable quality health care is a major goal of mine.  To accomplish this, I am very pleased to appoint Mark Birdwhistell to this critically important position,” said Governor Fletcher. “The depth of experience and knowledge he brings to this position from more than 25 years of work in the health and human services field will serve the people of Kentucky well.”           

For the past two years, Birdwhistell has served as CHFS undersecretary for health, overseeing the areas of Medicaid, public health, health policy and mental health and mental retardation services.  

In this capacity, he has spearheaded many high-profile initiatives such as Medicaid Modernization, including development of the KyHealth Choices 1115 waiver proposal for Medicaid and expanded newborn screening. He is also a key advisor in health insurance matters for the Fletcher administration.           

“It is an honor to serve under Governor Fletcher, as he knows and understands the fine points of health care, especially Medicaid, and their importance to moving Kentucky forward,” said Birdwhistell. “We must continue to draw from the best practices in other states and the private sector for health and family services. I’m proud to be able to play a role in improving the health, and ultimately the quality of life, for Kentuckians.” 

Birdwhistell has extensive experience in health care management in both the private and public sectors. He served as CEO of CHA Health for six years. He also was associate hospital director for managed care at the University of Kentucky (UK) Hospital and director for program development and budget in the Department for Medicaid Services from 1989-1994. His government experience includes 17 years in human services programs. 

Birdwhistell completed his undergraduate work at Georgetown College, where he earned a degree in social work, and has a master's in public administration from UK. He was recently appointed to the Council on State Governments’ prestigious Health Policy Task Force. He serves on advisory boards for the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration at UK.            

A Lawrenceburg native, Birdwhistell and his wife, Martha, still reside there. His son, Matthew, is in his second year at the Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine and his daughter, Mary Alice, is a freshman at Georgetown College. 

Matthew D. Bassett will continue as CHFS chief of staff and will also serve as a senior adviser to the Governor on health policy. 

The appointment follows an announcement by James W. Holsinger, Jr., M.D., last week that he is leaving the post to return to the UK faculty and spend more time with his family.