The Utah Department of Health on Thursday named a new state epidemiologist.
Dr. Leisha Nolen will become Utah's top infectious disease expert when she joins the health department on July 6, the agency said in a news release.
Nolen currently serves in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Arctic Investigations Program in Anchorage, Alaska.
“The Utah Department of Health has such an outstanding reputation among public health professionals, and I am excited to get to work with this great group of individuals to help improve the health of the residents of Utah,” Nolen said in the release. “As I get to know Utah and its different health challenges, I hope to find ways that my training and experience can contribute to the programs and teams already in place.”
Nolen was one of the first responders in Seattle early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when a cluster of cases of the disease were discovered in a nursing home in one of the first outbreaks in the United States. She has since worked on multiple projects related to COVID-19, including helping to create a national system for tracking COVID-19 breakthrough cases and evaluating the accuracy of rapid tests.
With the Arctic Investigations Program, Nolen has been working to identify and address disparities in infectious disease health among Alaskan Natives.
“The state epidemiologist plays such a critical role in identifying and addressing health concerns in Utah,” Rich Saunders, the health department's executive director, said in the release. “We're fortunate to have Dr. Nolen joining our team. Her background and previous experience ensures she'll be able to smoothly and quickly integrate with our pandemic response team and also with our broader public health priorities and partners.”
Nolen received her doctorate and medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and completed a pediatric residency at Boston Children's Hospital, the release said.
Nolen replaces former state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, who this week started in her new role as executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.
“The state epidemiologist is an important partner for local health departments in our state,” Dunn said in the release. “I think I speak for all local health officers in welcoming Dr. Nolen to Utah and offering our support to help ensure her success.”