Gov.-elect Dan Malloy named Dr. Jewel Mullen to head the state’s Department of Public Health on Tuesday in his fifth major appointment to head a state agency.
At a press conference Malloy noted that, unlike his previous appointments which were well kept secrets until they were officially announced, it was widely speculated that Mullen would be his choice to head up the health department.
Mullen leaves behind a job at the Massachusetts Bureau of Community Health and Prevention where she was director of the Prevention and Wellness, Violence and Injury Prevention, Primary Care and Health Access, as well as the Office of Statistics and Evaluation divisions.
In her various roles in Massachusetts, Mullen oversaw many public health programs including school based health centers, something Malloy said was an issue “very close to [his] heart.”
Mullen, who lives in Guilford, has close ties to the state and said she was pleased to be back working in the state where her husband is also a practicing physician. She also has two children attending Connecticut public universities.
Malloy said that Mullen’s professional resume was a good fit for his administration’s agenda.
“Her experience fits well with our vision and we need her to do the job in the state of Connecticut,” he said.
Mullen said, as director, one of her focuses will be preventative care.
“It has been clear to me since the beginning of my career as a physician how important the intersection of medicine, especially primary care medicine, and public health is to the well-being of everybody,” she said. “And I talk a lot about the needs of the underserved but everybody needs really, really good preventive care and a focus on keeping people healthy in the first place so we don’t have so much emphasis on what we’re trying to control now which is dealing with chronic diseases the way that we do.”
Mullen said another role she anticipates at the department is helping people see the role of public health in health reform.
“When we talk about health reform we’re not just talking about medical care, we’re talking about the well-being of people in their lives, and their families and communities,” she said. “There’s a lot of that that’s public health. There’s a lot that primary care doctors want to do but in the limited amount of time they have with their patients they can’t address it all.”
Mullen said that much of the debate over health reform could be quieted by educating people about the issues and fostering an understanding about how primary care and public health fit together.
Malloy said he hoped that Mullen could play a role in bringing about a higher utilization rate of the state’s community health centers, which will receive more federal funding under the new health care law.
In addition to being a physician, Mullen is also an educator, who has taught medicine at several different universities including New York University, the University of Virginia, Yale and Tufts, according a prepared statement by the Malloy administration.
“In her clinical practice, teaching and research, Dr. Mullen has focused on improving access to high quality health care and preventive services particularly for minority populations and the elderly,” the statement said.
Improving access to health care for minorities is an important issue according to the state’s largest physicians organization, the Connecticut State Medical Society.
“We’re definitely excited to have a partner who is a strong advocate of addressing health equity and disparities in Connecticut’s patient population,” Matthew Katz, the group’s executive vice president said. Katz said that, while the CSMS has not had the privilege of working closely with Mullen in her position in Massachusetts, they were looking forward working with her in the future.
Mullen began her career with the National Health Services Corps at Bellevue Hospital in New York where Malloy’s sister-in-law also began her medical career, he said.