Milwaukee Commissioner of Health Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, who has been praised for her response to COVID-19 and emphasis on racism as a public health crisis, will be leaving her position to return to Washington. In a press release, the City of Milwaukee Health Department announced that she will be joining the health organization Trust for America’s Health as its director of policy development.
Since COVID-19 reached the city this March, Kowalik has been responsible for implementing multiple orders designed to curb the virus, while advocating strongly for masks (last month she sat down with Radio Milwaukee to debunk some popular anti-mask memes). She has also spoken often about how racial disparities have exacerbated the disease’s toll in Black and brown communities.
“It is with mixed emotions that I have submitted my resignation to Mayor Tom Barrett to join the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), a national leader in health policy,” Kowalik said in a statement. “As much as I love my hometown, I believe that I am limited due to factors that are out of my control. This was evident at multiple points in time through our pandemic response. From access to testing, promotion of masks/face coverings, gathering limits, orders, messaging and outreach for communities of color, and various threats to Health Officers. I have decided to redirect my energy and skills to upstream approaches that will improve the health of millions of Americans.”
“I am grateful to Commissioner Kowalik for her dedication and leadership, especially during this pandemic,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement. “She is leaving the department in a solid position to continue to make progress. I wish her the very best as she advances to her new position.”