State House News Service

Patrick Names Interim Public Health Commissioner

BOSTON — The state Department of Public Health announced Thursday that Dr. Lauren Smith will step in as interim replacement for DPH Commissioner John Auerbach, who plans to leave the Patrick administration next week.

Smith has been DPH medical director since 2007. Smith will be stepping into the head of an agency with a full docket, as it oversees the Board of Registration in Pharmacy, which oversaw the New England Compounding Center linked to contaminated steroids that have caused illness and deaths around the country.

The DPH also oversaw the Hinton drug lab, where chemist Annie Dookhan has been accused of manipulating evidence, before it was transferred to the State Police over the summer.

Smith has been on hand at briefings on fungal meningitis traced to NECC.

“As medical director, Dr. Smith has led the way on efforts to promote public health in our schools and address health disparities in our communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby in a statement. “She starts her role at a critical time, and I know she will exercise her leadership and passion for public health to guide the department forward.”

Auerbach, who resigned in the wake of the Hinton lab revelations, is scheduled to start work at Northeastern University on Nov. 1.

At DPH, Smith spearheaded the obesity-fighting Mass in Motion program, coordinated the response to the H1N1 swine flu outbreak, and led efforts to prevent head injuries in student athletes.

Before she was hired by DPH, Smith worked for Inpatient Pediatrics and the Medical-Legal Partnership at Boston Medical Center.

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