By Sym Posey
The Birmingham Times
David Hicks, DO, on Monday officially took office as Jefferson County’s Health Officer, making him the first African American to hold the position.
“I think this is a story of America, no matter where you come from or your background, in this country we all have opportunities,” Hicks said about his historic appointment. “If you work hard, you’re diligent, you’re dedicated, you have a dream, you can achieve whatever goals you set.”
For a young person watching, the message is clear, Hicks said, “think about what you want to do in the future and say, ‘no matter what I look like, no matter where I come from, I can achieve whatever I want to if I work hard at it.’”
Hicks had been deputy director at JCDH since 2016 and with the department since 2014. He succeeds Mark Wilson as Health Officer, the county’s most senior health position. Wilson stepped down on Sept. 30.
As health officer, Hicks, 45, said there are three things that he wants to “lean towards: legacy, health equity, and collaborative partnerships. As far as legacy, we’ve had a strong tradition in Jefferson County for over 100 years of being at the forefront of all innovation for public health in our community and I see my role as building upon the legacy, not dismantling anything, but to continue the strong work that has happen before me,” he said.
Regarding healthy equity, “[JCDH] believes that everyone should be in position to attain the highest level of health possible … and we need to use our resources for people to realize that.”
Collaborative partnerships are important “because we know that JCDH cannot do it alone,” he said. “We’ve had strong partnerships in our community, and we’re going to lean into those, and we want to expand those … Our ultimate vision is a healthy Jefferson County for all. “
Others areas such as a new strategic plan will get attention as well, said the health officer.
“The main thing we want to do is look at data. We have a lot of information that we need to gather. We have info internally and externally and that is going to set out priorities. We’re actually going through a transitional moment as well, as we go into a new strategic plan and so that plan is going to be informed by the community [which is] going to help lead us in the direction we need to go. “
JCDH promotes public health across the county through public communication, investing in community health programs, seeking to increase access to health services and promoting a reduction in chronic and infectious disease. It is also responsible for inspecting the various health care facilities to ensure they meet legal requirements.
A New Jersey native, Hicks earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and his Master of Public Health degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. He underwent medical training at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine, now the Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine.
This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.