Capital Clicks

Iowa hires new medical director amid department merger

By: - July 19, 2022 3:10 pm

The state filled open positions in the newly-formed Iowa Department of Health and Human Services this week. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The state of Iowa is filling the long-vacant position of medical director as it works to merge its public health and human services departments.

Dr. Robert Kruse will be filling the position after leaving his current post as MercyOne’s medical director of occupational health in Des Moines, according to the state.

As state medical director, Kruse will work for the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, which was created on July 1 through the merger of the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Department of Human Services.

“Dr. Kruse’s background in biomedical engineering, public health, family medicine and occupational health give him a broad perspective to approach complex medical and public health problems,” said Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa’s new HHS department.

Kruse comes to the position with experience at MercyOne and at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in New Jersey, where he served as an assistant professor. He earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Iowa, and medical degrees from St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies.

“I look forward to embracing this new role to collaborate with our partners and stakeholders to work together to promote and improve the health of all Iowans,” Kruse said in a statement.

The job of medical director had remained unfilled since October 2021 when Dr. Caitlin Pedati, an epidemiologist, vacated the position she had held since 2018. Pedati was a leader in Iowa’s COVID-19 response at the beginning of the pandemic.

Kruse was not the first person to be offered the job of medical director. A finalist turned down the job in March, according to the Des Moines Register, and the state had to reopen the search. Deputy State Epidemiologist Ann Garvey has served as the acting state epidemiologist while the position remained vacant.

In addition to Kruse’s hiring, the state announced a promotion this week: Sarah Reisetter will serve as the new department’s deputy director and as chief of the agency’s Division of Compliance. Reisetter, who previously was the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, takes over the compliance division after six years in her former role.

Reisetter will earn a salary of approximately $175,000 in her new position, and Kruse’s salary will be $235,000.

“As we build this new agency, these roles will be critical and I can’t imagine two more well-suited candidates,” Garcia said.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.