UPDATE: Catherine Slemp named interim West Virginia health officer

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Dr. Catherine Slemp has been appointed as West Virginia's interim state health officer.

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch announced Slemp's appointment Wednesday to head the Bureau for Public Health.

She replaces Dr. Rahul Gupta. He resigned in September to become the March of Dimes' senior vice president and chief medical and health officer.

Slemp also served as the acting state health officer from 2002 through 2011.

Slemp has served as a public health consultant for various groups since 2011 and as a relief and development coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia since 2016.

She earned her medical degree from Duke University and a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

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West Virginia's chief health officer, Dr. Rahul Gupta, has taken a new job.

A news release Tuesday morning from the March of Dimes said Gupta has been named the national organization’s senior vice president and chief medical and health officer.

“Dr. Gupta’s leadership skills, accomplishments, vision, and passion for prevention will be crucial to meeting March of Dimes goals to give every mom and baby the best chance for a healthy start,” Stacey D. Stewart, president of March of Dimes, said in the release. “State and federal data show that the health of pregnant women and babies in this country is getting worse, and there’s an urgent need for the type of innovative solutions that Dr. Gupta has made his hallmark.”

Gupta, who has been the state’s chief health officer since 2015, said he was looking forward to the new challenge.

“I’m pleased to be joining March of Dimes, an organization that’s fighting for the health of all families, no matter who they are, where they live or what they can afford,” Gupta said.

Gupta’s decision to leave the state Bureau of Public Health is another blow to the state Department of Health and Human Resources which has struggled to keep someone in the position to lead the Office of Drug Control Policy, created to help the state fight the opioid crisis.

State DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch told a group of state lawmakers Monday a reorganization would be announced soon.

“We are looking to make an announcement within the next 30 days in terms of how that program will work and some changes in that program,” Crouch said.

Gupta, who was the chief health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department before taking the state job, also worked for months to implement the state’s medical marijuana law which has yet to go into effect.

The March of Dimes focuses on mother and baby health.

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