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San Juan County Health Officer announces departure after more than 30 years of service

Journal of the San Juan Islands - 4/5/2024

Submitted by San Juan County

Health and Community Services Dr. Frank James, Health Officer of San Juan County, announced his resignation after 31 years of service to San Juan County at the March Board of Health meeting. Not only has Dr. James served as the County Health Officer, but he is also a recognized regional public health leader working with the Lummi and Nooksack Tribes, University of Washington in their School of Public Health, as Island Primary Care Orcas Clinic's Medical Director, and trusted health advocate.

"I have had the great pleasure of working with Dr. James for almost ten years," said Ellen Wilcox, Community Health Services Manager at San Juan County Health & Community Services. "In that time, we've responded to numerous disease investigations and outbreaks – everything from rabies exposures to chicken pox to COVID. We've also worked closely with community partners to develop prevention strategies and to increase vaccination access and rates for kids. What struck me from the very beginning is Dr. James' sincere commitment to and knowledge of our community, his use of science and clinical expertise, and his deep compassion. That is a rare blend, and one our community and department have benefited greatly from."

Dr. James has earned due praise for his work for the residents of San Juan County, leading islanders through the COVID-19 pandemic eight times better than the next-best county in Washington. During the pandemic, Dr. James used the best science available to protect residents and visitors, collaborated with local business leaders on how to keep their employees and patrons safe, and spoke out against misinformation. Across the nation, San Juan County is an example of what to do during a global pandemic, in no small part due to Dr. James's leadership and commitment to protecting islanders.

"Many of people are proud of our performance – I couldn't be prouder of our performance," said Dr. James. "We're a community that never fractured and we never broke apart. And that's really unusual in the whole country. We all stayed on board and stayed together."

SJC is working to identify and appoint an interim Health Officer while the recruitment and selection process is underway. An interim Health Officer is expected to be appointed in April.