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California's First Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris To Resign After 3 Years

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California's first surgeon general has resigned, saying Wednesday that she is "prioritizing care for myself and my family" three years after taking the position.

Gov. Gavin Newsom named Dr. Nadine Burke Harris to the $200,000-a-year post in January 2019 as part of his administration's efforts "to help the youngest Californians," his office said then.

She founded the Center for Youth Wellness, and at the time led the (San Francisco) Bay Area Research Consortium on Toxic Stress and Health in partnership with UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals. Newsom's office called her a national leader in pediatric medicine.

Her focus was on confronting pressures that could metastasize into health problems, "like adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress — and using the platform of Surgeon General to reach young families across the state."

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Nadine Burke Harris, Surgeon General, State of California participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

She has since spoken publicly on firearm violence, juvenile justice and more recently on the dangers and stresses of the coronavirus pandemic, including helping schoolchildren cope with resulting mental health challenges.

Burke Harris alluded to the pressures in a statement, saying she is now putting her priority on caring for herself and her family.

"I have always said, self-care isn't selfish. That is not just something I say. They are words that I live by," she said.

She added that "being the first California Surgeon General during the greatest public crisis in a century has been the experience of a lifetime."

Her last day will be Feb. 11, three years to the day after she took office.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly praised her for persevering in building her office during the pandemic while focusing the administration's attention on improving early childhood health, confronting health disparities and distributing coronavirus vaccines.

Newsom said Burke Harris' leadership in promoting equity, mental health and early childhood development "have been instrumental in advancing the health and well-being of Californians," and he promised in a statement to "continue this important work."

Dr. Devika Bhushan, chief health officer in the surgeon general's office, will serve as acting surgeon general.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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