SC Senate confirms new health department director

SC Senate confirms new health department director
The South Carolina Senate confirmed Dr. Edward Simmer Thursday morning to be the next director of the state's Department of Health Environmental Control in a 40-1 vote. (Source: DHEC)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Senate confirmed Dr. Edward Simmer as the new director of the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control Thursday morning.

Gov. Henry McMaster released a statement on Simmer’s confirmation:

Dr. Simmer has a lifetime of experience leading large, complex medical organizations and has successfully brought positive change everywhere he has been. He clearly has all of the professional qualifications and leadership skills necessary to lead the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The people of South Carolina will be well served by his confirmation.

Senators voted 40-1 to confirm Simmer to lead the agency.

“It is an honor to be called on to serve the state that I proudly call home during this unparalleled moment in the history of our state and nation,” Simmer said. “DHEC’s mission to protect and promote the health of the public and the environment on behalf of all South Carolinians is something I take very seriously. From the frontlines to our living rooms, COVID-19 has challenged us all. We have made sacrifices and lost loved ones. However, together, with agency staff and our many partners, I am confident that we will get through this and come back stronger than before. I look forward to serving alongside DHEC’s incredible team of employees and am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”

It will be the first time in 41 years that a doctor has led the state’s health department.

“We are grateful to the Senate for confirming Dr. Simmer to the helm of South Carolina’s public health and environmental agency during the state’s unprecedented COVID-19 response,” DHEC Board Chairman Mark Elam said. “Dr. Simmer brings with him a wealth of executive management and in-the-field medical experience through his more than 30-year naval career. His decision to continue his legacy of service with South Carolina reflects the core values of DHEC and its team of dedicated and talented employees. He is well positioned to provide the steady and able leadership needed to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

DHEC has operated without a permanent director for nearly eight months.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Simmer most recently served as a Captain in the U.S. Navy, where he held increasing leadership positions, including as the Chief Medical Officer for the TRICARE Health Plan and Commanding Officer and CEO at the Naval Hospital in Oak Harbor, Washington. He brings with him over 25 years of extensive clinical leadership and team-building experience with a strong track record of transforming large health care systems.

He received his Doctor of Medicine from Saint Louis University and holds a Master of Public Health, with a focus on epidemiology, from the Eastern Virginia Medical School/Old Dominion University Consortium as well as a bachelor of arts from Hiram College. In addition, Simmer is Board Certified in General and Forensic Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and has an Administrative Psychiatry Certification from the American Psychiatric Association.

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