Ashton Marra Published

Gupta Named W.Va. Chief Health Officer


The state Bureau for Public Health will have a new chief beginning January 1 after a trying year for its current head.

The Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling announced in a press release Thursday Dr. Letitia Tierney will resign as the state’s chief Public Health Officer at the end of the year. Current Kanawha-Charleston Executive Director Dr. Rahul Gupta will take over as Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

“It’s been a difficult decision to leave and I truly appreciate the opportunity to serve all West Virginians. I am confident that I am leaving the Bureau in excellent hands, “Tierney said in the release.

Tierney took the job in November of 2013 and soon after was tested by January’s chemical spill that left 300,000 people in the Kanawha Valley without water for as many as ten days. Tierney’s response to that leak was criticized at the time by some lawmakers.

Gupta’s name also became well known during the water crisis as he worked closely with the state to respond. Gupta helped lead a survey of area residents soon after the chemical spill to evaluate both local and state response.

Gupta has served as the head of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department since 2009, the largest local health department in the state.

He also serves as the executive director of the Putnam County Health Department and was previously an assistant professor of medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

“I am deeply honored to be appointed to this position by Secretary Bowling,” Gupta said.  “Working with professionals and partners across our great state, I look forward to the opportunity to help West Virginians build a healthier future by achieving positive and lasting health outcomes.”