Health director tells Ohio ‘no way’

Treatment of Amy Acton turns her off

By Jackie Borchardt - The Columbus Dispatch



COLUMBUS, Ohio — The severe criticism and harassment of former Health Director Dr. Amy Acton caused her appointed successor to quit just a few hours after she was introduced by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

“In conversations preparing for the transition to the Ohio Department of Health, I was informed that the former director’s family had faced harassment from the public,” said Dr. Joan Duwve in a statement Friday afternoon.

“While I have dedicated my life to improving public health, my first commitment is to my family. I am a public figure. My family is off limits. I withdrew my name from consideration to protect my family from similar treatment.”

The governor’s office announced Thursday night she had withdrawn for unspecified personal reasons.

DeWine, a Republican, had been searching for a health director since June, when Acton left the post. Lance Himes, the chief health department lawyer, has been acting director in the meantime.

Acton received praise and intense criticism for public health orders closing schools, businesses and more at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Protesters, some armed, gathered on the lawn of her Bexley home. Critics targeted her for volunteering on Democrat Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and falsely linked her to Planned Parenthood.

Duwve, an Ohio native, had served as South Carolina public health director since April, but officials of that state said Friday morning she was not returning and named a successor to her former position.

DeWine’s office said it again would resume a search for a health director amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but provided no other details about Duwve’s mysterious departure.

Duwve may have had trouble winning confirmation to her cabinet position anyway before the abortion-leery, Republican-controlled Ohio Senate.

Before earning her public health degree, Duwve was a volunteer coordinator for Planned Parenthood for seven months in 1984, according to a 2017 resume on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis school of public health website. She then worked from 1986 to 1990 as a senior grants officer for the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception, a family planning nonprofit known today as EngenderHealth.

Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, said his organization would have opposed Duwve’s nomination because of her past work with Planned Parenthood. Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said the “pro-life super majority” in the Senate would never confirm a former Planned Parenthood “activist.” The Ohio health director regulates abortion clinics in the state.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the governor was aware of Duwve’s roles in those organizations when he selected her and her withdrawal was unrelated. Tierney declined further comment on the decision.

Duwve’s work in the 1980s was among an 11-page resume that includes 11 years as a family practice physician, several years as Indiana’s chief medical officer and medical director for public health and preparedness and six years as an associate dean of IUPUI’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.

Duwve has contributed at least $2,800 to Democratic-aligned political action committees and candidates in the past decade, Indiana and federal campaign finance records show.

Treatment of Amy Acton turns her off

By Jackie Borchardt

The Columbus Dispatch

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