Dr. Jeanette Kowalik has resigned from her position as Milwaukee Health Commissioner. According to a statement, Kowalik will join the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Trust for America’s Health as Director of Policy Development.
“It is with mixed emotions that I have submitted my resignation to Mayor Tom Barrett to join the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), a national leader in health policy,” Kowalik said in a statement. “As much as I love my hometown, I believe that I am limited due to factors that are out of my control. This was evident at multiple points in time through our pandemic response. From access to testing, promotion of masks/face coverings, gathering limits, orders, messaging and outreach for communities of color, and various threats to Health Officers. I have decided to redirect my energy and skills to upstream approaches that will improve the health of millions of Americans.”
Kowalik is a Milwaukee native (she received her doctorate in health sciences at UW-Milwaukee) and was appointed Health Commissioner in 2018. During her tenure, Milwaukee was the first city to declare racism a public health crisis. During the COVID-19 crisis, she was a welcome voice of reason and intelligence, issuing multiple health orders and promoting the wearing of masks.
“I am excited to join TFAH’s leadership team as Director of Policy Development and return to Washington D.C.,” Kowalik continued. “My experience as a local Health Officer will be an asset to policy development at TFAH. I am confident that the MHD leadership team, which consists of five Deputy Commissioners and a Chief of Staff, are highly competent and able to continue to manage the department in my absence. I will continue to provide support through the transition and believe that the progress made over the last two years will set the stage for continued growth and innovation under the next Commissioner. In closing, I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to serve my hometown in this capacity.”
“I am grateful to Commissioner Kowalik for her dedication and leadership, especially during this pandemic,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement. “She is leaving the department in a solid position to continue to make progress. I wish her the very best as she advances to her new position.”
Kowalik and Barrett are set to speak at a media press conference on Thursday.