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08.07.2020

Arkansas’s New Secretary of Health

I have appointed Dr. José Romero as Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, and today I’d like to share some things about the man who is assuming this job in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Romero moved to Arkansas in 2008 as Director of the Section of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He also served in a similar position at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. He served as the Director of Clinical Trials Research at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute from 2008-2019.

Dr. Nate Smith, our former Secretary of Health who has now taken a position with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, named Dr. Romero as the department’s chief medical officer in the spring. When Dr. Smith left for his new job, I named Dr. Romero interim secretary. And this week, I offered him the job as secretary.

It was an easy choice. Dr. Romero has devoted his career to public health, and he has earned a distinguished national reputation for his work in infectious diseases.

Dr. Romero was born in Mexico, where his grandfather worked the land, taught himself to read and write, and eventually owned a small grocery story. His grandfather’s goal for his children was simple. He wanted them to learn to read and write. Shortly after Dr. Romero was born, his parents moved to Michigan, where his father earned a master’s degree in civil engineering. Many of the bridges he designed in California are still standing.

Dr. Romero, who was a competitive swimmer as a teenager, spent most of his childhood in California. His brothers and sister were born in the United States. He became a citizen when he was in the sixth grade. At his naturalization ceremony, the judge asked young José to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

He knew from a young age that he wanted to be a doctor, and he returned to Guadalajara for medical school, where he graduated in the top 1 percent of his class.

His resume includes an impressive list of jobs, appointments, and accomplishments. He is chairman of the Center for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is providing guidance nationally on the development and administration of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Much of his work has involved the study of pediatric infectious diseases.  In his well-rounded career, Dr. Romero has done almost everything – from research to leading hospital departments – which has prepared him well to lead the Arkansas Department of Health.

We are blessed that Dr. Romero chose to make Arkansas his home. I am grateful he has agreed to become our Secretary of Health at this difficult time.

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