Dreyzehner Named New State Health Commissioner

Press Release from the Office of Governor Bill Haslam, Sept. 2, 2011:

Appointee brings broad experience as physician and public health practitioner to state government

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Dr. John Dreyzehner will join the administration to lead the Tennessee Department of Health. He will replace Susan Cooper, who after fulfilling her commitment to assist with the transition and the first legislative session has decided to pursue other opportunities.

“I am thankful Susan served the people of Tennessee as part of this administration,” Haslam said. “She is a passionate advocate for a healthier Tennessee, and we will continue to focus on initiatives that encourage our citizens to make positive choices to exercise and eat well. I have enjoyed working with her and wish her the best.”

“When I came to the state in 2005 from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing to develop the safety net, I had no idea that I would have the honor and privilege to serve as Commissioner of Health under two exceptional, health-focused governors, Bill Haslam and Phil Bredesen,” said Cooper, who has been commissioner since 2007. “I want to thank both governors for the opportunity to serve and their support of policies and programs that improve the health of Tennesseans.

“It is especially fulfilling to see that the hard work of the department, our partners and Tennesseans has resulted in remarkable and measurable gains in the health and quality of life of our residents,” Cooper continued. “It is infrequent that states see this level of improvement in such a short period of time. I am proud of and want to thank the employees of the department, our partners and all Tennesseans for making a commitment to better health. I wish Dr. Dreyzehner the best and will work with him to ensure a smooth transition.”

Dreyzehner, 48, currently serves as director of the Cumberland Plateau Health District in Southwest Virginia. During his nine years in that role, he also spent two years serving as acting director of the Lenowisco Health District. Dreyzehner began his medical career as a United States Air Force flight surgeon, and prior to returning to public service with the Virginia Department of Health, he practiced occupational medicine as director of the Blue Ridge Occupational Health Clinic in Lebanon, Va.

“I am pleased that John has agreed to join our team,” Haslam said. “He brings a wealth of experience to the position from his service in the Air Force to his work as a public health official in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. I look forward to working with him and appreciate his willingness to serve the citizens of Tennessee.”

“I am honored and excited to be a part of Governor Haslam’s administration,” Dreyzehner said. “It has been my privilege to work with dedicated Tennessee Department of Health professionals for years in Northeast Tennessee. I know we have a lot of work to do in tackling the significant health challenges Tennesseans face, and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”

Dreyzehner served the Air Force as Chief of Aeromedical Assessment in the Office of the Command Surgeon at Langley Air Force Base, Chief of Flight Medicine in the 1st Medical Group of the 1st Fighter Wing, and as flight surgeon for the 94th Fighter Squadron. In addition to his occupational medicine and public health practice, he has also practiced in the field of addiction medicine.

He currently serves on the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Health Policy Advisory Committee, as vice chair of the Southwest Virginia Health Authority, chairman of the board of One Care, Inc., chairman of the Mountain Empire Public Health Emergency Coordination Council, chair of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Master of Public Health Advisory Committee and co-chair of the Appalachian Substance Abuse Coalition.

Dreyzehner graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He received his medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his master of public health degree at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he completed his occupational medicine residency.

Dreyzehner is adjunct faculty at East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, founding faculty of the Healthy Appalachia Institute and visiting assistant professor at the University of Virginia. He is also a fellow of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

He and his wife, Jana, a child psychiatrist, have two sons and live in Abingdon, Va.

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  • disgruntled

    Why wasn’t someone from Tennessee chosen for this position? There are p-l-e-n-t-y of qualified folks here. How about promoting from within?— Tennesseans know our public health issues a lot better than someone from another state. That sure didn’t help us out with one of the “good” jobs. — Bill “outsourced” that one!