Originally published July 5, 2011
"I solemnly swear," Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., began, repeating the words of Governor Nathan Deal, to uphold the office of Commissioner of Public Health. And just a moment later with a handshake, a new chapter in the health of Georgians had begun. The swearing in of Dr. Fitzgerald as the first Commissioner of a stand-alone Public Health agency in nearly 40 years had happened, bringing with it the result sought by healthcare advocates and legislators for more than two decades.
"Welcome to the Georgia Department of Public Health," a determined Fitzgerald proclaimed. "This isn't about me. It's about a better, healthier Georgia. And it's about a Governor and a General Assembly who believe in our vision."
House Bill 214 was introduced in February by State Representative Mickey Channell of Greensboro with support from health policy groups and legislators including State Senator Renee Unterman of Buford. Signed into law by the Governor in May, the Bill creates the new Department and provides for a Commissioner who reports directly to the Governor, ushering in new agility and new direction.
"I know she'll do a good job," Gov. Deal told Fitzgerald's senior leadership team after the two shook hands.
"Congratulations to Georgia," an emotional Fitzgerald said.
Commissioner Fitzgerald had been the Director of the Division Public Health and the State Health Officer while the agency operated as a division within the Dept. of Community Health. A board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and a Fellow in Anti-Aging Medicine, she's practiced medicine and has been involved in health policy for three decades.
Fitzgerald was sworn in just after 5 o'clock pm on June 29 in the Governor's office at the State Capitol. She was joined by her husband Tom and members of the Department's executive leadership team. Fitzgerald resides in Carrollton, Ga.