Kisha Davis nominated as Montgomery County health officer

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After more than a year without a top health official, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich on Wednesday named family physician and community health worker Kisha Davis as the nominee to succeed Travis Gayles.

The County Council is scheduled to vote on her nomination on Nov. 15.

Gayles resigned in August 2021 to work with Hazel Health, a San Francisco-based start-up that provides telehealth services to K-12 schools. James Bridgers, who served as deputy health officer under Gayles, has been the acting health officer since Gayles resigned.

“With the nomination of Dr. Kisha Davis as our County’s next health officer, we have found a health expert and leader committed to innovation, equity, and access to health care,” Elrich (D) said in a statement.

Davis most recently was vice president for health equity at Bethesda-based Aledade, an organization that works with independent medical practices, health centers and clinics. Davis has previously worked as a project manager for the Family Medicine for America’s Health project and as the medical director for CHI Health Care, a primary care center in Gaithersburg.

If confirmed, Davis will lead the county’s efforts toward disease control and prevention, eliminating health inequities and promoting inclusive health policies. She will also work with the Maryland Department of Health to develop and implement state health policies. In the role, Davis would be paid an annual salary of $200,000, said Mary Anderson, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. Bridgers will be responsible for ongoing operations, fiscal oversight and administrative aspects of the public health programs.

“In this role, I see myself as really being that primary care doc for Montgomery County,” Davis said at a news conference Wednesday.

Under Gayles, the county implemented stringent measures to mitigate coronavirus spread and Montgomery, the most populous county in Maryland, had one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. He earned praise for his positions but also faced criticism from some who thought he was too cautious, especially surrounding guidance around schools.

Raymond Crowel, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services said that about 15 candidates were considered for the position. A few moved forward through the interview process before withdrawing. Elrich said in the news conference that this a joint appointment with the state and that Davis’s nomination has already been reviewed and approved by the state.

A Montgomery County native, Davis has earned degrees from Duke University, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She was a White House fellow at the Agriculture Department, co-host of a podcast called “The Sisters Will See You Now” and co-producer of “Finding Fellowship,” a documentary about preserving the Quince Orchard community.

“The Council is thrilled to have received the nomination from County Executive Marc Elrich of Dr. Kisha Davis to serve as Montgomery County’s Health Officer,” Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large), the council’s president and chair of its Health and Human Services Committee, said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have an accomplished public health professional with her caliber of experience and expertise poised to lead Montgomery County’s health strategies and ensure the health of our community.”