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Health district director changes again

Dr. Todd Wagner, who had recently returned to the Western Tidewater Health District as its director, has left once again.

The Virginia Department of Health said that Wagner “concluded his service” Sept. 29, according to a news release. It did not state what his next position would be.

Dr. Billie Blair-Taylor, deputy director for the Chesapeake Health District, has been named as acting director for the Western Tidewater Health District, to include full oversight of local health department clinical operations. The district in Western Tidewater serves Suffolk, Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County.

Wagner, who had initially served as the district’s interim director from February 2020 until last November, had returned to the district May 10 after leaving to become vice president of medical affairs at Bon Secours Maryview Hospital in Portsmouth.

“There was still good work to be done within the district, and I want to be a part of that and in an environment and location I was familiar with,” Wagner said at that time.

While he was away from last November until May, Dr. Lauren James, already the director of the Portsmouth Health District, became interim director in Western Tidewater. While Wagner was gone, Will Drewery left as the district’s emergency manager to become the emergency manager in Isle of Wight County.

James, who had served as the interim district director while keeping her duties as director of Portsmouth’s health department, has stepped down from her position there to pursue other clinical opportunities in the state.

The state department of health said it has posted the vacancies for both Portsmouth’s and Western Tidewater’s health districts.

Besides the changes in Western Tidewater and Portsmouth, the state health department also announced changes to health districts in Virginia Beach Norfolk and Chesapeake.

Dr. Nancy Welch, Chesapeake’s district director, is the acting health director in Virginia Beach, having taken over Aug. 25 from Dr. Parham Jaberi, who is also chief deputy commissioner for community health services for the state health department. Jaberi had been covering Virginia Beach’s and Norfolk’s health districts since April.

The move is intended, according to VDH, to separate the Virginia Beach and Norfolk health departments. Jaberi will continue to serve as acting director in Norfolk, and has become the acting director for the Portsmouth Health District with James’ departure. Once the new directors are all hired, Jaberi will supervise them.

Dr. Annie Williams, deputy director for the Norfolk Health Department, will be helping Jabari by providing medical direction and oversight to Portsmouth Health District clinical operations.

The state health department began recruiting permanent district directors for the Virginia Beach and Norfolk health departments in July, with multiple first-round screening interviews with VDH leadership completed.

“Providing leadership to local public health departments during a pandemic has been challenging,” Jaberi said in a statement. “However, VDH is committed to identifying high-quality public health professionals who will be able to respond to community needs while also helping VDH to augment and refine its service delivery in the post-pandemic era.”