New head of county health department leads fight against COVID-19

Published: May. 29, 2020 at 10:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Friday, May 29, is the last day on the job for Dr. Bob England, who came out of retirement for a year to lead the Pima County Health Department.

“I really think this place more than most has a good chance to cut through the politics and just do right by each other, so thank you very much for that,” England said, in a farewell video posted on Twitter.

England has a steadying force in the coronavirus crisis, but starting Monday, there will be a new voice in Dr. Terry Cullen. The new department of health director and England happened to be classmates at the University of Arizona. Cullen has worked in the Navajo Nation, West Africa, and as assistant Surgeon General.

Dr. Cullen says she is “a scientist at heart” and will be watching COVDI-19 research and data closely. Her first priority is to ramp up contact tracing. She says it’s the best way to get ahead of the virus. That was also a weapon in the war against Ebola, in which Cullen was a top soldier.

“I look at my time in Sierra Leone as a critical time in my life,” Cullen told KOLD’s Brooke Wagner.

She says, there are similarities. Especially, the loneliness of patients in isolation.

”They leave somebody at the door - and that may be the last time that they see them,” Cullen said.

Cullen knows her department can’t take the fear away - but it can empower people with tools.

"I think it’s a difficult journey, but the beauty of Pima County is that Pima County’s willing to take that on…. I can’t imagine a better place to be,” Cullen said.

In her plan submitted to the board of supervisors, Dr. Cullen called for more than a hundred additional contact tracer positions. She’s working with the supervisors to figure out how they’ll fill those. In the meantime, if you’re interested in that job, you can get a head start with a free online course she recommends from Johns Hopkins.

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