St. Joseph County Health Officer talks quick resignation, future of health department

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- St. Joseph County's Health Officer officially announced her resignation in Wednesday's Board of Health meeting.

Dr. Diana Purushotham has been overseeing the Department of Health since July, taking over for Dr. Joseph Cerbin, who had stepped in to fill the role as the board searched for Dr. Bob Einterz' replacement. 

She says it's truly a bittersweet moment for her, and that she's leaving only because her family will be relocating out of state. 

She told the board Wednesday that her time as health officer has been phenomenal. 

"I think the future is very bright for the health department and the community," said Dr. Purushotham.

She has high hopes for the county department of health, even when she's gone, saying her team hit the ground running when she became health officer in the summer. 

"In the past couple of months, we've been able to strengthen the structure of the health department and add on key positions to allow us to better serve our community," Dr. Purushotham said.

She came in at a time when there was a visible rift between county government and the health department, namely over mental health funding, but health officials say that has taken a backseat since Dr. Purushotham began.

While the past year has been one of transition for the department, Dr. Purushotham said in Wednesday's meeting that the 2023 Annual Report shows all-around positive growth going forward. 

The board unanimously voted to adopt a strategic plan for the next four years, which focuses on extending community outreach, maintaining an evidence and date-based approach, and improving the structure of the department. 

"That will be a great resource for the health officer to step into because they'll understand where we are," explained Dr. Purushotham. "They may want to change it and that's completely fine, but then there's an understanding with respect to the Board of Health about where we will be going."  

She says the next officer to fill her shoes will need to bring a true passion for public health to do the job right. 

"A sense of service, community service, and the ability to work collaboratively both within the department and out in the community, and with our government," advised Dr. Prurushotham.

As she closes out her next two and a half months as health officer, she's making sure she leaves the department of health in better shape than it was eight months ago. 

"I'm confident that the next health officer will have a great team and a great opportunity to continue the good work," Dr. Purushotham said.

Dr. Purushotham will attend the next two Board of Health meetings before her last day, June 6.

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