Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown names Napa doctor as new public health chief

A Napa physician with a background in infectious diseases and public health has been appointed to the top spot at the California Department of Public Health, the Governor’s Office announced Friday.

Dr. Karen Smith, 58, is slated to take over a department that has been mired in controversy the past year, culminating in the recent resignations of its top two officials.

Smith’s predecessor, Dr. Ronald Chapman, announced in December that he would resign as the department’s director. Earlier this month, the department’s chief deputy director of policy and programs, Kathleen Billingsley, announced that she also would be leaving.

Smith has been an infectious disease specialist at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa since 2012 and has served as public health officer and deputy director at the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency since 2004, according to the Governor’s Office.

She briefly worked for the state from 2000 to 2001 when was section chief at the California Department of Health Services Tuberculosis Control Branch. She earned her medical degree from the Stanford University School of Medicine and master of public health from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

This position, which requires Senate confirmation, pays $233,233.

If confirmed, Smith will take over a department that was sharply criticized last year by the California state auditor for failing to adequately oversee investigations of complaints related to long-term care in California. The auditor detailed problems up and down the state, where district offices were found to be inconsistent and haphazard in their handling of complaints, investigations and corrective action plans.

Call The Bee’s Marjie Lundstrom, (916) 321-1055.