State Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos has named Rear Admiral Penny Slade-Sawyer to lead the state Division of Public Health.
Wos made the announcement Thursday at the state's annual conference for public health directors in Raleigh.
Slade-Sawyer is currently assistant surgeon general at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Before that, she was an assistant deputy secretary, directing the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
The new director is no stranger to North Carolina, having previously directed the physical rehabilitation unit at the federal medical center in Butner. She earned a bachelor's degree in physical therapy and a master's in social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Slade-Sawyer succeeds Dr. Laura Gerald, who left the position in July, citing "differences and disagreements" with the department's policy direction under the leadership of Wos and Gov. Pat McCrory.
"Rear Admiral Slade-Sawyer has been instrumental in setting national agendas for public health research, for program and initiative development and for care," Wos said in a statement. "We are excited that she will be joining our leadership team."
Slade-Sawyer will begin work as state public health director in March. Dr. Robin Cummings will continue to serve as acting state health director indefinitely. DHHS spokeswoman Julie Henry says the state health director is required to be an M.D.