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SUNY Upstate infectious disease expert nominated to be Onondaga County's next health commissioner

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Scott R Willis
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WAER News
Dr. Kathryn Anderson greets Onondaga County Legislators Colleen Gunnip and Deb Cody as county executive Ryan McMahon looks on.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon didn't have to go very far to decide who he'd like to see as the next health commissioner. Dr. Kathryn Anderson brings 18 years of experience, but only recently arrived in Syracuse from Minnesota.
McMahon says he began working with Dr. Anderson when COVID-19 began spreading across the county, only a few months after the joined Upstate.

“I recall Zoom calls going over models about where we thought this things was going, and what we needed to do to try to bend the curve.”

For her part, Anderson says she was quickly and willingly pulled into Upstate and community level response. She says it was a new experience.

“I’ve studied infectious diseases for a long time.  But admittedly, largely, they were diseases that impacted other people in places that were far from here,” Anderson said. “This was one of my first times being immersed in the study of something that was an imminent threat to me, my family, and my community.  And, getting to know community partners, politicians, academicians, and other people tackling this challenge in my community was transformative.”

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Scott R Willis
/
WAER News
Dr. Kathryn Anderson says she's excited about the opportunity to serve as the Onondaga County's next health commissioner.

She says it inspired her to do something different in public service, but she didn’t know what. Then the health commissioner position opened up. Ryan McMahon says there was plenty of interest from candidates outside the area, but felt comfortable with Anderson’s qualifications from the beginning.

“With the talent at Upstate and the talent in our medical infrastructure here, this is really international talent that flows through here. We were able to find Dr. Anderson, who met all the qualifications. Unique experiences in her service, background in epidemiology after what we’ve just been through, it was a perfect fit.”

McMahon says her hospital and community connections have also prepared her to tackle other community health issues such as the opioid epidemic, health disparities, and lead poisoning, to name a few. Anderson’s nomination will go before the legislature’s health committee before heading to the full legislature for a vote in the next few weeks.

health comm anderson.jpg
Scott R Willis
/
WAER News
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon introduces Dr. Kathryn Anderson as her husband, Ryan, and 3-year-old daughter Ella look on. They also have a 5-year-old named Ingrid.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.