Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, was appointed Secretary of Health for the Great State of Washington by Governor Jay Inslee in December 2020. He is the first Asian-American physician and first South Asian to serve in this leadership role in the history of the state of Washington.
His appointment came at a difficult time with the winter wave of COVID-19 and arrival of vaccines into the state. In assuming this leadership role at Washington State Department of Health, Dr. Shah made the transition from fighting on the front lines of response as Executive Director and Local Health Authority for Harris County Public Health (HCPH) – the nationally respected public health agency for the nation’s third largest community with nearly five million residents.
Dr. Shah earned his BA (philosophy) from Vanderbilt University; his MD from the University of Toledo Health Science Center; and completed an Internal Medicine Residency, Primary Care/General Medicine Fellowship, and MPH (management), at the University of Texas Health Science Center. He also completed an international health policy internship at World Health Organization headquarters in Switzerland.
Upon completing training, Dr. Shah began a distinguished career as an emergency department physician at Houston’s Michael DeBakey VA Medical Center, where he provided clinical care for over two decades. He started his formal public health journey in 2003 as Chief Medical Officer at Galveston County’s Health District before joining HCPH. Under his leadership, HCPH won numerous national awards, including recognition as Local Health Department of the Year in 2016.
Dr. Shah has held numerous leadership positions with respected entities like the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Trust for America’s Health; Network for Public Health Law; Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute; and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
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