Sameer Vohra was named the next director of the Illinois Department of Public Health

A prominent state pediatrician with degrees in law and public policy will become Illinois’ top doctor later this summer, leading the state through the next chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday.

Dr. Sameer Vohra of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will take over the state Department of Public Health on August 1.

Vohra — who already serves on IDPH’s State Board of Health, the Illinois Medicaid Advisory Committee and the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council — was hailed by Pritzker as the agency’s “future visionary leader.”

“Dr. Vohra has been achieved in every sense of the word. His experience and education cross sectors and fields, bringing a well-rounded perspective to this agency,” Pritzker said in a statement announcing the appointment. “As a leader in state and national health policy, I have absolute confidence in Dr. Vohra’s ability to continue building a stronger IDPH for the 21st century.”

Vohra is ready to take the reins of IDPH from Dr. Amaal Tokars, who has served as interim director of the agency since mid-March following the departure of charismatic former director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. A daily presence on Illinois television screens during public conferences in the early days of the pandemic, Ezike now heads the Sinai Chicago hospital network.

Vohra is the founding chair of the Department of Population Science and Policy at the SIU School of Medicine. He is also an associate professor of pediatrics, public health, medical humanities, and law at the school, and he serves as interim chair of the Children’s Mental Health Partnership.

Now, he will help lead the state’s pandemic response as cases and hospitalizations rise again in Illinois.

Nearly 5,000 Illinoisans have tested positive for the virus each day over the past week — a 12% increase on average since last month — while the 1,336 people admitted to hospitals with COVID since Monday night marked a nearly five-month high. And while Omicron’s more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants gain dominance, roughly one in five eligible residents has yet to be vaccinated against COVID.

“I am humbled that the Governor has entrusted me to serve the people of our state as the 20th Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health,” Vohra said in a statement. “Governor Pritzker, along with the dedicated IDPH staff, have served our state admirably during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am honored to lead this agency into the future, continuing to keep us safe from new diseases, supporting our public health workers and promoting wellness in every community across Illinois.”

Vohra, who could not be reached directly for comment, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and science in human culture from Northwestern University before completing a residency in pediatrics at the University of Chicago, where he also earned a master’s degree in public policy. . Vohra earned a medical doctorate and a law degree at SIU.

Among a number of professional accomplishments, Vohra was named a Fulbright Scholar in 2009 and a Presidential Leadership Scholar in 2020. He has also served on national committees for the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Medical Association.

Tokars, who has kept a low profile as IDPH’s acting head during her four-month term, called it “her great honor to serve the people of Illinois and Governor Pritzker as IDPH’s leader during this time temporary at a time when we are facing public health challenges on a number of fronts.”

IDPH oversees about 200 programs ranging from vaccine distribution and hospital standards to recreational facility safety and dairy farm inspections.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.