after dr Anthony LT Chen, who served as director of health for more than 14 years, officially resigned from his position as director of health last week. The Board of Health plans to nominate Dr. Chen for his years of outstanding service to our community at an upcoming meeting, as does Pierce County and Tacoma The councils did it last month.
Over the years, Dr. Chen praised his work at the Ministry of Health as an effective community facilitator and his ability to build strong partnerships with local health systems, the health community, education and many community organizations.
On Wednesday, the board appointed deputy director Cindan Gizzi as interim director of health pending the appointment of a permanent director of health. This will help the Department of Health continue to provide the essential services that protect the health of all people and places in Pierce County.
“Tacoma and Pierce County are incredibly fortunate to have Cindan assume this transitional role to provide the stability and continuity our communities need during this time of transition,” said Catherine Ushka, Chair of the Health Committee. “For more than two decades, Cindan has been deep.” The commitment to public service has never waned. Cindan has a proven track record of ensuring the health and safety of our communities and I am grateful for her leadership as we finalize our selection of our next Health Director.”
In addition to serving as Deputy Director of the Department of Health, Gizzi is President-elect of the Washington State Association of Local Public Health Officials. She has a Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology from UCLA.
At its meeting on June 21, the board of directors approved a resolution for a contract with Dr. Chen, who is said to continue to work as a health officer. His new title is Director Emeritus. He will continue to sign health orders and ration cards, and perform other health officer duties. If desired, he will also assume some Health Director responsibilities, including orienting the new Health Director, consulting with members of the department management team, and participating in ongoing community initiatives such as the Pierce County Opioid Task Force and the Tacoma Mayor’s Roundtable on Violence Prevention.
The health department is still looking for a new director who, like Dr. Chen will also serve as the county health officer. The executive recruiter selected 16 candidates last month and is reviewing the semifinalists’ references to narrow the pool for interviews later this month with board members, community stakeholders and employees.
The Tacoma Mayor and Pierce County Board will make the final selection, and the Tacoma County and City Councils will confirm the appointment.
“Reflecting on my time with the department, I am particularly proud of our work to create an innovative and leading local health agency,” Chen said in a previous interview with Tacoma Weekly. “COVID happened and we were prepared for it.” . We still have work to do to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. I look forward to seeing where the next leader will take our local health department.”
Chen moved to the Seattle area in 1993 after his parents moved to Federal Way in 1990. Born in Vietnam to Taiwanese parents, Chen came to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department via Boston, where he earned his master’s degree in public health.
“I remember visiting my parents before we moved here. Back in the 1990s, there really wasn’t much downtown. I’ve worked most of my time in Seattle. In 2005 I had the opportunity to go to Boston.” I am applying for a minority health policy fellowship and am pursuing my masters in public health. I ended up spending three years in Boston and my wife said I had better come home. At that time, this position (Director of TPCHD) was open and I applied. This is the first full-time public health job I’ve ever had.”