Arkansas governor names interim health secretary, director

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday named an interim secretary of health and a new director of the state Health Department.

Hutchinson named Renee Mallory as interim secretary, replacing outgoing Secretary Dr. Jose Romero. Romero announced last month he was leaving to serve as director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Mallory, who began work with the Health Department 33 years ago, served as the department’s chief of staff. Hutchinson praised her “invaluable experience” serving the state.

Hutchinson also named Dr. Jennifer Dillaha as the department’s director. Dillaha, who joined the department in 2001, has served as chief medical officer and medical director for immunizations. She had previously served as state epidemiologist.

“Dr. Dillaha has played a significant role in guiding the state through the last two years of the pandemic,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “She has shown her dedication to Arkansas, and I have full confidence that she will continue to lead the state in improved health outcomes with the same dedication.”

Romero was named state health secretary in 2020 after his predecessor, Dr. Nathaniel Smith, left to take a job with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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