Press Releases

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.


Top Agency Bosses Offer Their Visions for Tennessee

In line with Gov. Bill Haslam’s social media-driven communications strategy, the state’s new top decision makers are featured in the administration’s most recent “Governor’s Update” YouTube video

The three-and-a-half-minute video features six of the state’s more than twenty state commissioners, with the top department leaders in Health, Financial Institutions, Children’s Services, Agriculture, Mental Health and Tourism each offering a vision for their agency.

Commissioner Greg Gonzales, who oversees the Department of Financial Institutions, says he wants to build an environment where businesses can be successful, as does Commissioner Julius Johnson of the Department of Agriculture, who said he wants to make the state’s rural and agricultural communities better places to live.

“I believe we can do this by creating incentives for new jobs to be developed in rural areas, to make sure that the agriculture community grows in like-kind with urban businesses and so forth, to develop jobs and to have the same opportunity that the urban areas have,” he said.

Susan Cooper, commissioner of the Department of Health, said she hopes Tennessee can be the healthiest state in the nation while Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker wants to make the Volunteer State one of the top five destinations in the country.

Commissioner Kathryn O’Day of Children’s Services stressed the need for the state to reach out to the local community to best address the needs of kids, and Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney said the state needs to be sensitive and responsive to the people his department serves.

“Many of these people, by the time they get to this point or are looking to services, they’re desperate. They’re dealing with very difficult situations,” he said.

Press Releases

Cooper to Remain TN Department of Health Commissioner

Press Release from Gov. Bill Haslam, Jan. 14, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Susan Cooper will remain in her position on an interim basis as Governor-elect Bill Haslam today announced the formation of a new Tennessee Health and Wellness Commission.

The purpose of the commission is to assemble members of public health agencies, private health interests, business, education, health consumers and other stakeholders to develop strategies to improve the overall health and wellness of Tennesseans.

Dr. John Lacey, the Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of UT Medical Center and a practicing general internist, will chair the commission for Gov.-elect Haslam.

“I’m grateful that Commissioner Cooper is willing to stay on as an interim commissioner as our administration takes office,” Haslam said. “I look forward to working with the commission as they gather the relevant parties to examine how to improve Tennesseans’ health and wellness, a major factor when attracting businesses to our state.”

“The commission’s job will be to look for ways for the state to work with all stakeholders in finding new and innovative ways to advance health and wellness throughout the state,” Lacey said. “We’ll also look into how to bring additional health care investment to the state, and ultimately we’ll be expected to develop strategies and support implementation of the strategies.”

Cooper is a master’s prepared registered nurse from Vanderbilt University, and she became the first nurse to serve as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health when she was appointed in 2007.

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Press Releases

Tennessee Gov. Haslam Announces Cabinet Positions for Transition Period

Press Release from Gov. Bill Haslam, Jan. 14, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Governor-elect Bill Haslam today completed his cabinet appointments for the transition period.

The 20 positions that are filled include seven females, five minorities and geographical representation from across the state.

Candidates for cabinet appointments in Education and Health remain under consideration with decisions expected in the near future. In the interim, Commissioner of Health Susan Cooper will continue to serve indefinitely and Patrick Smith, who is the executive director of the Race to the Top Oversight Team, will be acting Commissioner of Education.

“I am pleased that during the transition we have been able to attract a strong, diverse team to lead the departments,” Gov.-elect Haslam said. “Experienced men and women from across Tennessee will provide the leadership for great customer service and efficient operations.”

Gov.-elect Haslam said his commitment to education reform has led to a nationwide search to identify the most qualified person to lead the state’s efforts for educational excellence. “We are talking to several top candidates and will take the appropriate time to select the right choice to lead our reform efforts,” he said.

While the search continues for a Health commissioner, Gov-elect Haslam announced the formation of a new Tennessee Commission on Health and Wellness. Dr. John W. Lacy, chief medical officer for the University of Tennessee Health Center in Knoxville, will lead the commission.

Commissioners announced on Friday included Labor and Workforce Development, Human Resources, General Services, and Environment and Conservation.

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Steve Cates – Commissioner of General Services: Cates just completed serving as Chairman of the National Home Builders Association Political Action Committee, having previously served as Fundraising Chair.

Karla Davis – Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development: Since 2006, Davis has been Director of Urban Strategies Memphis Hope, managing and overseeing the Community and Supportive Services Program for three U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HOPE VI public housing redevelopment projects and two HUD ROSS Grant projects in Memphis.

Mark Emkes– Commissioner of Finance and Administration: Emkes spent his entire professional career at Bridgestone, working his way up from a trainee to chairman, CEO and president before retiring in February, 2010 after 33 years at the company.

Bill Gibbons– Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security: Gibbons has served as Shelby County District Attorney General since November 1996.

Greg Gonzales– Commissioner of Financial Institutions: Gonzales has served as Commissioner since 2007 serving as the state’s chief regulatory officer of all state-chartered depository and licensed non-depository financial institutions.

COL Many-Bears Grinder – Commissioner of Veterans Affairs: She is a Bronze Star Medal recipient, and she is an Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran.

Bill Hagerty – Commissioner of Economic and Community Development: He served as a National Finance Chairman for Romney for President in 2007-2008.

Major Gen. Max Haston – Adjutant General of the Tennessee Military Department: In May 2005, he mobilized and deployed as the Chief of Reserve Components, Multi-National Corps Iraq (XVIII Airborne Corps).

Raquel Hatter– Commissioner of Human Services: Devoting her life to social work, Hatter served the last three years as the President and CEO of Family & Children’s Service, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of families, children and individuals.

Jim Henry– Commissioner of Intellectual Disabilities: For the past 13 years, Henry has been the President and CEO of Omni Visions, Inc., a company serving adults with developmental disabilities and children and families in crisis.

Rebecca Hunter – Commissioner of Human Resources:Hunter was Director of Human Resources for Hamilton County, serving there for the past six years.

Julius Johnson– Commissioner of Agriculture: Johnson has been the Chief Administrative Officer for the Tennessee Farm Bureau for the past 15 years.

Robert Martineau – Commissioner of Environment and Conservation: Martineau is a partner at Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis, PLLC, practicing in the area of environmental and regulatory law.

Julie Mix McPeak – Commissioner of Commerce and Insurance: . She has more than 12 years of legal and administrative experience in state government, recently serving as Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Insurance (KOI).

Kathryn “Kate” O’Day– Commissioner of Children’s Services: She began her career as a youth counselor with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

Richard Roberts – Commissioner of Department of Revenue:Roberts currently serves as a director of Miller Industries, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of towing and recovery vehicles.

Derrick Schofield – Commissioner of Department of Corrections:Schofield was named Georgia Assistant Commissioner of Corrections in 2009 and has 19 years total experience in the field working his way up and gaining more and more responsibility in Georgia Corrections as his career progressed.

John Schroer– Commissioner of Transportation: Schroer was sworn in as Franklin Mayor in 2007, and is a member of the Middle Tennessee Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Regional Transit Authority.

Susan Whitaker– Commissioner of Tourist Development: A former Vice President for Marketing for Dollywood, Whitaker is a Chicago native and a direct descendant of Tennessee’s first governor, John Sevier.

Doug Varney – Commissioner of Mental Health:Varney has spent his professional career with Gray, Tenn.-based Frontier Health, a community mental health center serving families and individuals affected by behavioral health, substance abuse and intellectual deficit issues.