FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 28, 2004) -- Dr. Rice C. Leach, who has served as Kentucky’s commissioner of the Department for Public Health since 1992, has announced his plans to retire effective July 31.
Before returning to his home state, Leach served over 26 years as an officer of the United States Public Health Service, with most of his time spent with the Indian Health Service.
"This is the best job I have ever had," said Leach. "It is a shame that more Kentuckians don't know how hard their public health team works with the private sector and others to protect them from things like smallpox and SARS and to ensure that their food, milk, and X-ray machines are safe.”
Leach noted that over the years public health fought successful battles with Spanish flu in 1918, polio, tuberculosis, and infant mortality.
“Now they are regrouping to confront today's health threats such as obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, and substance abuse. They will be successful but they will need everyone's help because success will depend on Kentucky's adults accepting the challenge of changing some counterproductive health habits,” he said.
“Dr. Leach and I have been longtime friends and he has had an outstanding career in public health in Kentucky and the many other places he has served,” said Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary James W. Holsinger Jr., M.D. “I look forward to him being involved in Kentucky health issues in other ways.”
Leach worked as a general medical officer, hospital administrator and director of all Indian Health Service programs in North and South Dakota. His federal career also included serving as chief of staff to the U.S. Surgeon General before his assignment in Kentucky in 1992.
Dr. William Hacker will become acting commissioner effective July 1. Hacker joined the department in 2001 as a physician consultant and more recently headed the Public Health Preparedness Branch focusing on bioterrorism.
The cabinet will conduct a search for a new commissioner.