DeSantis names appointments of health secretary and chief science officer

by | Apr 1, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis filled a couple of key vacancies in his new administration. On Monday DeSantis announced the appointment of Dr. Scott A. Rivkees as Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of the Florida Department of Health. He also announced the selection of Thomas Wheeler as Florida’s first Chief Science Officer.

Rivkees is a practicing pediatric endocrinologist who served as a professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He was also physician-in-chief of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

“Dr. Rivkees brings a wealth of experience and excellent credentials that fit glove-in-hand with Florida’s needs,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement announcing Rivkees appointment. “I look forward to working with Dr. Rivkees, whose leadership will be indispensable in addressing the opioid crisis facing our state and responsible implementation of medical marijuana now that a legislative solution is in place, among other important issues.”

A graduate of Rutgers University, Rivkees went on to get his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. During his career he worked as associate chair of pediatrics for research at the Yale University School of Medicine and on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.  

As secretary  of the state Department of Health and as surgeon general, Rivkees will be responsible for leading disease prevention and control efforts for the state, and will oversee the licensing and regulation for doctors, dentists and other health professionals. He will also be in charge off the state’s medical marijuana program.

“I am deeply honored to accept the appointment of Florida Surgeon General, a position that has the responsibility to ensure Florida’s 21 million citizens have access to affordable, safe and quality healthcare,” said Dr. Rivkees. “It is the duty of the Department of Health to ensure the health and prosperity of our citizens and visitors, young and old, healthy and infirmed. Medication safety, the opioid crisis, and the rising cost of prescription drugs are demanding issues facing Florida today and I am confident that under the leadership of Governor DeSantis and Lt. Governor Nuñez, Florida will lead the nation in innovative medical and healthcare solutions.”

The creation of the state’s Chief Science Officer was announced by DeSantis shortly after he took office in January as part of water quality reform package.

As part of the reforms proposed by DeSantis was the appointment of a Chief Science Officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.  

“As one of Florida’s leading environmental researchers, Dr. Frazer understands the unique water issues facing our state and the actions we must take to solve them,” said DeSantis. “Since day one, my administration has been laser focused on addressing our pressing environmental challenges and commitment to science-based solutions. With science at the center, Florida can lead the world in environmental innovation and water quality improvement.”

Dr. Frazer has served as the Director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment since 2012 and previously served as Acting Director of the UF Water Institute.

“I am incredibly honored by this appointment and I thank Governor DeSantis for naming me Florida’s first Chief Science Officer,” said Dr. Frazer. “Our environment and waterways make Florida unique. I look forward to working with the Governor and the Department of Environmental Protection on ways we can use sound science and research to improve our state’s water quality and protect the environment.”

Frazier received his B.S. in Marine Fisheries from Humboldt State University, his M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida and his PhD. In Biological Sciences from the University of California Santa Barbara.


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