Thirty-two years to the day from he took up his chosen profession in public health, Dr. E. Arnold Isaacson will retire as director of the Davis County Health Department. But he's retiring reluctantly.

"I wanted to die in the saddle," said Isaacson, who will finish his second stint as health department director on April 1. "But that's not to be."Suffering from what he says is a significant visual impairment from a retinal problem that surgery didn't fully resolve, Isaacson, 65, said it's time to give up the post to another person.

"It's appropriate for me to step aside and let someone else take over," said Isaacson, who came to the post in Davis County in May 1991 from Texas, where he was a regional public health director for the state and an associate professor at Texas Tech in Lubbock.

His first stint as county health director was in 1963-1966 after Isaacson, a Utah native, earned his medical degree from the University of Utah and did a residency in Los Angeles in public health and preventative medicine.

Although he's retiring, Isaacson said he intends to follow public health issues closely and has some research projects planned at the U.

The Davis health department was in disarray when Isaacson arrived in 1991, the former director named in a sexual harassment suit by an employee and in a power struggle with county officials.

He leaves the department with a long list of accomplishments and glowing words of praise and support for the department's board of directors, county commissioners and staff.

"It's been a productive and service-filled four years. It's with a great deal of appreciation that I've been able to work here," Isaacson said. "The county commission and the board of health have been very supportive and have shared my vision of what the department should be doing.

"The staff in the department is superb and the response of the people of Davis County to our programs has been very supportive," Isaacson said.

The list of accomplishments Isaacson ticks off is lengthy:

- An enhanced environmental health division, with an updated vehicle inspection and emissions program that will shortly include diesel vehicles.

- Expanded immunization, pre-natal, and child health and nutrition clinics.

- An improved jail health program and expanded ambulance service in the county's north end.

- A new women's clinic.

- The hiring of nurse practitioners to expand the range of on-site services the department offers in its clinics.

- Upgrading the county's lab services to meet new federal standards and writing protocols for fluoride prescriptions and the sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic that are being used as models statewide.

- New and bigger satellite clinic sites with expanded hours in addition to moving the department itself into remodeled and expanded office space in the old county jail annex.

Although statistics show Davis County to be one of the healthiest counties with the lowest death rates in the state, Isaacson said there are some nagging public health problems he simply didn't have an opportunity to tackle.

One of those is teen suicide.

"In all the other counties, the leading cause of death among teens and young persons is accidents. In Davis County, it's suicide, with accidents second. It's a problem that cries out for intervention," said Isaacson, who said he has heard some theories about the inflated rate but has no data to bolster them.

Among adults, the leading cause of death is heart disease (50 percent), followed by cancer (25 percent), meaning that 75 percent of the adult deaths in the county are from causes that can be minimized, if not prevented, by intervention and education, Isaacson said.

But overall, Isaacson said he has had no disappointments in the work he's done in the county in the past four years, other than the one big one: His need to retire.

And his advice to his successor: "Seek service, not status; focus on the needs of the people and try to meet them in terms of public health services; and seek and receive counsel."