Mayor Brandon Johnson names Dr. Olusimbo Ige as next head of Chicago Department of Public Health
CHICAGO (CBS) — Three months after abruptly firing Dr. Allison Arwady as the city’s top public health official, Mayor Brandon Johnson announced he has nominated Dr. Olusimbo “Simbo” Ige as the next commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).
If confirmed by the City Council, Ige would become the first Black woman to lead CDPH on a permanent basis.
She currently is the managing director of programs at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a New Jersey-based nonprofit public health organization. He also has previously served as an assistant commissioner for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“Dr. Ige is a tremendous addition to not just our administration, but to the City of Chicago,” Johnson said in a statement. “Dr. Ige is someone who understands the balance between hard data and community interaction when assessing public health problems and solutions, and with decades of experience in public health, she brings a clear-eyed understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities that CDPH and our city face, and how we will collectively overcome them. She will lead with compassion, competency and collaboration in moving our public health department and our city forward.”
While at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ige has coordinated efforts with health organizations across the U.S. to make public health and health care systems more equitable, according to the mayor’s office. During her time at the New York Department of Health, she oversaw the city’s pandemic response, mental health programs, housing and health initiatives, violence prevention, and more.
“It is a distinct honor to serve the city of Chicago in this role,” Ige said in a statement. “Through collaboration with the Johnson Administration and with community members in Chicago, I am confident that we can improve the health outcomes for all Chicagoans. I have spent my entire career in the public health field, and I look forward to bringing all that I have learned to CDPH.”
If confirmed by the City Council, she will replace acting acting CDPH commissioner Fikirte Wagaw, who has run the department since Arwady was fired in August.
Arwady, who led the city’s efforts to fight COVID-19 during the pandemic under former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, confirmed she has taken a position with the CDC in Atlanta, leading the National Center for Injury Prevention & Control, starting Jan. 16, 2024.
Arwady spent four years running CDPH under Lightfoot, and became the face of the city’s fight against COVID-19, holding weekly public Q&A sessions on social media, and at times providing daily updates on the spread of the virus and efforts to roll out vaccines.
Johnson abruptly fired Arwady from CDPH in August, about two months after he took office. He had said during the mayoral campaign that he would replace her at CDPH, but when he forced her out, he did not give her the opportunity to say goodbye to her staff, or to stay on until he named a replacement.
The mayor’s office said Ige was chosen as Arwady’s successor after a search committee interviewed dozens of candidates nationwide, and submitted Johnson a list of four finalists.