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Tuolumne County supervisors to consider appointing Georgia doctor as health officer


UDhealth-p2-030218.jpg Dr. Robert Bernstein (center), who will be considered to become Tuolumne County's new health officer, currently resides in Decatur, Georgia, with his 12-year-old triplets (from left) Alex, Marina, and Katrina.

Dr. Robert Bernstein, who has nearly 40 years of experience working on public health issues in the United States and across the globe, is being recommended to become Tuolumne County’s new health officer.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors will consider a recommendation from Human Services Agency Director Ann Connolly to formally appoint Bernstein at a public meeting scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“Most of my 40 years of work has been in low- and middle-income countries” outside of the U.S., said Bernstein. “I’m hoping I can bring some of that diversity of experience to improve the overall

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Dr. Robert Bernstein, who has nearly 40 years of experience working on public health issues in the United States and across the globe, is being recommended to become Tuolumne County’s new health officer.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors will consider a recommendation from Human Services Agency Director Ann Connolly to formally appoint Bernstein at a public meeting scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“Most of my 40 years of work has been in low- and middle-income countries” outside of the U.S., said Bernstein. “I’m hoping I can bring some of that diversity of experience to improve the overall health situation in Tuolumne County.”

Bernstein, 74, currently resides in Decatur, Georgia, with his 12-year-old triplets, Katrina, Marina and Alex. He plans on moving to the county if appointed by the board on Tuesday, after which he would start his new role on April 2.

California law requires counties to employ a licensed physician as the county health officer, whose job entails enforcing local health orders and ordinances, state regulations and other statutes related to public health.

Furthermore, the position also serves in a leadership role when responding to public health emergencies and crises, educating the community on local health issues, and providing expert opinions to leaders.

Bernstein has worked for both the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as multinational agencies such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

His work has taken him to dozens of countries throughout the world, including Singapore, Indonesia, Tanzania, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

“What I’ve found in all of that is your work really counts the most at the ground level, which is the county level,” Bernstein said. “I’m excited about working in Tuolumne County, and my kids are also excited.”

Bernstein said he was looking for an exciting and challenging new assignment in the U.S. so that he wouldn’t have to be away from his children as much. He began the process of applying for the position in Tuolumne County in December.

If appointed, Bernstein said he would like to spend some time going through recent assessments of health and priorities in Tuolumne County and meet with community partners to see what they’re doing to address the findings.

“I definitely want to get to know the community of Tuolumne County,” he said. “If I have something to contribute, it will be to strengthen the capacity of county personnel and partners in collecting, analyzing and incorporating evidence for decision making.”

Bernstein holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, masters degree in biochemistry, and doctorate in biochemistry from Pennsylvania State University, as well as a medical degree from University of Connecticut and Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University.

His recommended salary would be $204,796.59 a year for working 40 hours per week, as well as up to $3,500 in moving expenses to relocate to the county and other health and retirement benefits contained in the Management Unit’s latest bargaining agreement.

Dr. Dean Kelaita, the Calaveras County health officer, has served in the role on an interim basis since the resignation of former Tuolumne County Health Officer Dr. Liza Ortiz in late August 2017.

Ortiz was preceded by Dr. Todd Stolp, who served as county health officer from 2003 to 2015.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.