Meet State Health Officer Dr. Dan Edney: ‘I have the benefit of many lessons learned’

Dr. Dan Edney, State Health Officer
Dr. Dan Edney, State Health Officer(MSDH)
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 9:28 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - “I’ve loved being a physician in Mississippi.”

His first week on the job as the state’s new health officer, the Mississippi State Department of Health officially introduced Dr. Dan Edney to the public in a virtual press conference.

A humbled, grateful Edney was thankful for the opportunity to serve and protect others in his home state.

“I’ve loved being a physician in Mississippi. I’m born in Mississippi, grew up in the Mississippi Delta, had my education in Mississippi, medical school at The University of Mississippi... It took a lot to get me away from the practice that I love and the patients that I love but this is a unique challenge, and I felt the calling to do it. Now, as I leave private practice, I’m very excited to engage in my new public practice and to look after the healthcare issues and certainly public health issues of 2.9 million patients or population of our state.”

Edney said he’s always felt a need to be a catalyst for change.

“Since 1991 throughout my entire practice life, Mississippi has been at the bottom of virtually every healthcare indicator and at the top of virtually every health disparity issue that impacts the various populations of our state and as a physician, I’m just tired of seeing it,” he said.

The new state health offer was frank about the state’s deep-rooted public health challenges.

“I’m embarrassed as a physician that my service to West Mississippi and the South Delta has not moved the needle. I’m embarrassed that we continue with these numbers and realistically, I see little evidence of improvement,” Edney added. “We have improved in some areas that I will share with you, but by and large, we’re pretty much where we’ve always been and I just don’t think that’s where we need to stay or have to stay.”

Edney later shared that Mississippi has made improvements when it comes to educating minority communities about the importance of vaccinations and informing communities about available resources. The new state health officer talked about the Magnolia State’s health equity including many struggles with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, opioid overdoses, and maternal-infant mortality rate.

“I refuse to accept the premise that we have to be last in every health indicator. I refuse to accept the fact that it’s our fate to be the unhealthiest in the nation. I refuse to believe that our mothers and babies will continue to die at the highest rate in the nation,” Edney said genuinely.

Edney’s priorities include making sure everyone has access to healthcare and educating Mississippians with the necessary health tools, such as screenings, check-ups, and health literature.

The Mississippi native is also thankful for the health officers who came before him.

“I’m not the first state health officer to care about this or to work on this,” he said. “Going back to Dr. [Alton] Cobb, certainly Dr. Ed Thompson, Dr. Mary Currier, and Dr. [Thomas] Dobbs. All of our health officers have been fighting against these numbers. I have the benefit of many lessons already having been learned. Those who have gone before us have done a lot of heavy lifting and I’m grateful to be standing on a firm foundation.”

When asked about his public health approach to addressing gun violence in low-income communities - identified by the American Medical Association as a major public health issue - Edney said he’s relying heavily on science.

“It’s not politics. It’s evidence-based policy. I’m basically presenting the science as we know it,” he said. “So, any issue impacting the public health that we’re speaking on will be based on the evidence. Understanding the evidence is the first thing - and looking at ways to improve outcomes based on the evidence.”

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