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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Q & A: Henry Taylor discusses new role as Deputy Health Officer

The Carroll County Health Department appointed Dr. Henry G. Taylor to be its Deputy Health Officer this month.

Taylor, of Columbia, also serves as Clinical Deputy Health Officer for the Cecil County Health Department.

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Taylor answered some questions for the Times about his recent appointment.

Q: What are your responsibilities as Deputy Health Officer?

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A:

As medical director for the clinical services provided by the health department, I make sure all care is of the highest quality and that all the professionals are properly trained and certified. At times, I'll provide administrative support to Mr. Larry Leitch, the Health Officer. Since starting on July 8, it has been fun learning about the various programs and dedicated staff. They've already been introducing me to the hospital, the school system, the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll [County], and Access Carroll. In the next several months, I look forward to working with other agencies, and community groups addressing health issues.

Q:What is your background in medicine or health care administration?

A:

I went to medical school at Harvard and did my hospital training at Hopkins Bayview when it was still Baltimore City Hospital. I was part of the National Health Service Corps and started a community health center in the mountains of West Virginia... I went back to Hopkins in [1999] for graduate training in public health administration. I was recruited to be the State Health Officer for West Virgina where I was very proud of how I strengthened the state and local public health departments.

Q: Could you list and describe other positions, research or activities that you are involved in currently?

A:

I am a Deputy Health Officer all the time. I am paid for 16 hours a week by Carroll County and eight hours a week by Cecil County. I teach students students how to do this type of work during the winter. I also have a small grant that pays for some time investigating Lyme disease - it is something that poses major challenges for our current healthcare system. For now, I'm just listening and learning what is already happening in Carroll County.

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Q:

What would you say have been the most significant accomplishments in your career?

A:

As noted above, I'm very proud of how I strengthened and helped the West Virginia health departments survive in difficult times. We increased funding for local health departments by 50 percent, and over 10 percent for state health programs. At the same time, we increased accountability and were better able to communicate the many things that public health does - one example is that if the West Virginia state health department were a major corporation, it would have over 100 "brand identities" being managed by just 700 staff people.

Q: What new plans or ideas do you want to implement as Deputy Health Officer?

A:

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Right now, I want to listen carefully and learn as much as I can. I believe we don't often recognize and learn from our successes. Maybe we can come back to this in several months?

Q: What do you see as the largest health issue facing Carroll County, and what would you like to do to address that issue?

A:

Through an excellent process, the community itself has identified obesity as the most significant problem, and I agree. The challenge is to decide what we will do about it. It requires each of us to take personal responsibility for our health, but also ask for and accept help when we need it. The causes of obesity are very complex, and we have to deal with aggressive marketing, which breeds food addictions, among others. As noted above, don't neglect where you have already made huge progress - access to care for the uninsured and underserved. I like to work in places where people take care of each other - maybe I'll need it someday.

Q:

With all the other activities you are involved in, and other positions you hold, such at Johns Hopkins University and for the Cecil County Health Department, do you feel you might be distracted from your role as Deputy Health Officer?

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Basically, no, because I am greatly simplifying what I am doing. I have had a wonderful and rich career so far, but in everything I do now the community is my patient... I want to research how we can combat the huge epidemic of Lyme Disease. But those activities reinforce what I see as my main job - to identify and treat the larger patterns of disease in our whole community. As a "modern country doctor" seeing eight to 13 patients a day in clinic, each patient was different, but my work was the same - to listen carefully, order tests, do physicals, talk to other doctors, write prescriptions, and most importantly, teach patients and their families. As a Deputy Health Officer, I just have two patients - Carroll and Cecil counties. My doctor skills are still used, but my focus, my patient, is the county. I enjoy looking at data to find patterns hidden in reports of animal bites, sexually transmitted diseases, restaurant inspections, or contaminated wells. It has been fun to talk with hospital and community leaders about the excellent resources you have in Access Carroll and the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County. It is scary but necessary to worry about terrorism and plan for global pandemics, but that's what your health department does for you. You know public health is working when nothing happens - when you don't have hundreds of people sick from bad food, when your swimming pools are safe, when children can learn because their hearing and vision is OK, when shots protect us against ancient diseases, when addicts break free from drugs and alcohol - these are just a few of the many ways the staff and programs of the Carroll County Health Department work behind the scenes so all of us can live safe and healthy lives.


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