Today Harris County Public Health (HCPH) announces the departure of their Executive Director Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH. Dr. Shah is set to become the next Secretary of Health for the state of Washington under Governor Jay Inslee, effective December 18, 2020.
Dr. Shah first joined HCPH in 2004, as Deputy Director and the Director for Disease Control and Clinical Prevention. He was appointed HCPH Executive Director by Harris County Commissioners Court in 2013.
“Under Dr. Shah’s tenure, HCPH started as a 500-person, $60 million agency in 2013 and grew over the years into a 700-person, $100 million agency (pre-COVID). Growth aside, he has instilled the department’s cornerstone values of innovation, engagement, and equity and paved the way for HCPH to continue improving the health and wellness of Harris County residents.” said Elizabeth Perez, director of HCPH’s Office of Communications, Education, and Engagement.
Under Dr. Shah’s leadership accomplishments include: HCPH became a nationally accredited health department, development of a fleet of mobile units, which assisted many disaster-stricken neighborhoods during Hurricane Harvey. Dr. Shah facilitated the funding and development of a state-of-the-art testing laboratory at the Mosquito and Vector Control Division (MVCD). Additionally, during his tenure, Microsoft chose MCVD as its launch partner for its Premonition Project, which is developing innovations for global health. Dr. Shah also oversaw the drive to build a new animal shelter and recently attended the ribbon cutting for the new facility. During his time as executive director, the animal shelter “leave alive” rate went from 15% in 2013 to 98% currently. At the end of 2019, HCPH released its Harris Cares report, which studied the health of Harris County residents and made recommendations for improvements.
Dr. Shah sat on numerous national boards and advisory groups, including leadership roles as the President of the National Association of City and County Health Officials and its Texas affiliate Texas Association of County & City Officials. Over this career at HCPH, Dr. Shah has lead response efforts through many public health threats such as Ebola, Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Harvey, Zika and HINI, yet, the biggest challenge has been the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Shah oversaw the plan to test, contact trace, educate and anticipate the on-going needs of Harris County residents during this global public health crisis.
Dr. Shah will be sorely missed. However, we are grateful for his leadership, and vision and wish Dr. Shah the very best in his new endeavor.