Bandy named interim chief of R.I. Department of Health

Updated at 7:38 p.m.

PROVIDENCE – Gov. Daniel J. McKee on Thursday named Dr. Utpala Bandy interim director of the R.I. Department of Health as state officials continue the search for a permanent director.

Bandy will take over the department on July 26, replacing current interim leader Dr. James McDonald.

McDonald announced on June 2 that he would step down on July 29, stating that “family circumstances require” him to move out of Rhode Island, including his mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and his son’s challenges living with autism.

McDonald was named interim leader on Jan. 27 after Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott resigned as the state health’s department chief without giving an explanation.

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“Dr. Bandy has vast experience as a public health leader and infectious disease epidemiologist in Rhode Island,” McKee said. “Her steady hand will be critical as we continue getting as many Rhode Islanders vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible, and as we try to make Rhode Island the healthiest place in the country to live, work and play.”

Bandy currently serves as the director of the department’s Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Disease, and Emergency Medical Services. She previously led the department’s infectious disease division. She has helped guide efforts to dramatically reduce rates of new HIV infections over the last 30 years in Rhode Island, and she manages the federal grants received by the department to do routine infectious disease surveillance and response work.

Bandy completed a pediatric residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas. She holds a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard University School of Public Health. She joined the Department of Health in 1993 as Rhode Island’s state epidemiologist and the medical director for the division that oversaw infectious disease prevention and control work. She became the director of the Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 2012.

(Update: Picture of Bandy added to report)

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