FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new face will lead Allen County’s fight against COVID-19 and beyond.
The Department of Health announced that Dr. Matthew Sutter was unanimously approved to become the new health commissioner Thursday. His tentative start date is June 15.
“I want to thank the board for appointing me to such an important role during this global crisis,” Sutter said. “I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to work with such an effective team. Dr. McMahan has done an amazing job building up public health, and I hope to continue that legacy in our community.”
Sutter will replace current commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan who announced her plans to retire earlier this year. McMahan has served in the role since 2000 and will retire June 5.
“I am very proud of the 20-year collaborative relationship I have enjoyed with Dr. McMahan and all we’ve accomplished together within the Department,” Department Administrator Mindy Waldron said. “I cannot express enough the gratitude we have for her passionate practice of public health over the past two decades. She will be missed. That said, I am excited about the opportunity to begin a new working relationship alongside Dr. Sutter and look forward to building a similar leadership team with him.”
More than 25 years of experience in healthcare, public safety and leadership experience in Northeast Indiana will come with Sutter to the position.
The health commissioner position under Sutter will be a part-time role fulfilling duties as medical director for the Department. He will be responsible for decision-making, public education, strategic planning, presentations, departmental representation, consultation on certain communicable disease actions and overall departmental direction. The health commissioner is a four-year appointment with unlimited reappointments.
“The many community members who know Dr. Sutter firmly acknowledge his great leadership and communication skills,” said executive board president Dr. William Pond. “We are so pleased to have been able to attract a candidate with such superb qualifications to carry on the outstanding work done by Dr. McMahan.”
The department of health said a part-time physician role will likely be hired in the near future to fulfill clinical needs deemed necessary after McMahan’s departure. This additional physician will work alongside full-time medical staff in the Department’s clinical settings seeing patients one to two days per week.
Department officials said the decision to split the health commissioner role into two part-time positions may not be ideal long-term, but it still allows for all important functions to be fulfilled by qualified physicians without requiring a single individual take on the responsibilities of leading the county during a pandemic while still providing necessary daily clinical care through immunizations, exams and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and civil surgeon exams.