CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The new head of the state Department of Health is a familiar face to Charleston and Kanawha County.
Dr. Sherri Young was appointed by Gov. Jim Justice to fill one of the three secretary positions of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
Three new cabinet secretaries were named by Gov. Justice last week. Dr. Cynthia Persily was named as secretary of the Department of Human Services, Michael Caruso as secretary of the Department of Health Facilities, and Dr. Young as secretary of the Department of Health.
Young has spent a lot of her professional work in Charleston, most notably as the director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department where she helped Kanawha County during the time of the COVID pandemic. Young was most recently Associate Chief Medical Officer for CAMC hospitals.
Now, she will lead the entire state’s health department. Young said she sees this position as a huge opportunity.
“I see a lot of opportunities there,” Young said about getting back into the public health sector. “I’m excited to work with Secretary Persily and Secretary Caruso.”
Young said that a lot was learned about the community during the time of the pandemic, which she believes has shaped her into a good choice to lead in this new role.
“Through COVID, we got to see a lot of great response with how we handled the pandemic, the public health response was phenomenal.”
Young said there’s still work to do on the health care gaps in West Virginia.
“As far as closing gaps and making sure people are getting their cancer screenings and right treatment, we have a lot of work to do,” she said.
When addressing these issues, it needs to start at a young age, according to Dr. Young. She wants to make sure young children are learning at an early age the ways to properly take of themselves from a health perspective.
“We need to get out in the communities and teach them better ways to take care of themselves,” Young said. “If we don’t start somewhere, it’s going to be a never ending cycle.”
House Bill 2006 was passed earlier this year which divides the DHHR into the three separate agencies.
The full division of the DHHR will take effect in 2024.