Dr. Dobbs calls tenure as state health officer ‘a privilege’
HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - For two years, Dr. Thomas Dobbs was the face – and the voice – that helped Mississippi residents navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been good for folks who realize the value of public health,” Dobbs said. “That if we want to have a good response, if we want to prevent long-term bad things happening to folks, that we’ve got to have a strong public health system.”
Dobbs will be stepping down from his role as Mississippi’s state health officer at the end of July. On Friday, he served as the keynote speaker at the second annual VJ Canizaro Health Summit at William Carey University addressing the crisis of diabetes and obesity.
But the long battle over COVID-19 continues to be top of mind.
“It’s a phenomenal experience to be at the front lines of that sort of thing,” Dobbs said. “So, I’m really pleased about that. It was stressful and some pretty long bits of sleep deprivation, that sort of thing. But, that’s the way it is in a crisis situation.”
He said the long hours were tolerable.
“You know, it was simultaneously tiring and energizing, because you have a focus on a mission,” he said. “It was good. It doesn’t weigh on me at all as far as going through the process because there was something important that needed to happen.”
But it didn’t come without challenges.
“I really wish we had more general support from some community leaders around vaccination efforts and other things like that, because we could have saved a lot of lives for folks who got the wrong messages from people who were using messages for their own expedient means, or because they were fearful.”
But Dobbs said the effort did have its successes.
“We had a dramatic transformation in the COVID-19 pandemic among African Americans who were disproportionately dying, to dying at rates much less than white folks in Mississippi.”
He said he’s looking forward to focusing on health disparity issues from a “ground level.”
“Lots of work to be done,” he said. “I’m going to be really busy.”
Dobbs officially steps down in July and he said an interim state health officer should be selected in the next couple of months.
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