Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, has been appointed the new Los Angeles County public health director by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. 

As director of public health, Dr. Ferrer will work under the Los Angeles County Health Agency, led by Mitchell H. Katz, MD, to further its mission to integrate services and activities that enable the Health Agency to build health equity across the county. The Department of Public Health is one of three agencies that make up the Health Agency. The other two are the Department of Health Services and the Department of Mental Health.

“Dr. Ferrer is uniquely qualified to lead and serve Los Angeles County’s diverse populations and has a gift for engaging youth and families,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “I look forward to the energy and creativity that she will bring to protecting the health of our communities during this time of uncertainty in federal healthcare policy” presumably in relation to the incoming Trump administration.

Dr. Ferrer was most recently the chief strategy officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where she oversaw key program areas, including food, health, and well-being. She has also been a senior leader of public health agencies in Massachusetts, particularly in Boston.

“I would like to thank the Board of Supervisors for the opportunity to join the leadership of the Health Agency as director of public health,” said Dr. Ferrer. “I am excited to lead the talented, dedicated staff of over 4,000 employees who work tirelessly to make health possible for all in Los Angeles County, particularly the most vulnerable populations.”

Dr. Ferrer has a doctorate in social welfare from Brandeis University, where she was a Pew Doctoral Fellow. She also holds master’s degrees in public health from Boston University and in education from UMass, Boston. She earned her bachelor’s degree at UC Santa Cruz.

Dr. Ferrer is taking over the office from interim director Cynthia Harding, who had held the office since Jonathan Fielding, MD, retired in 2014. Dr. Ferrer will assume responsibility for the Department of Public Health on Feb. 6, overseeing the more than $900 million budget.

In her previous position roles Ferrer was a vocal proponent of the Affordable Care Act and ensuring everyone her office served had access to care.

“Massachusetts led the way in providing access to health insurance, and in Boston we know how important it is for our most vulnerable residents to have coverage. The federal mandate is an opportunity to build on the success we’ve had locally, but we need to work together to spread the word about changes so that people don’t fall through the cracks,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, when she was the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission in a statement. “If you’re seeking insurance coverage or have questions about the new options we want to make sure there’s no wrong door.”

In her new role she expected to work for all LA County residents, especially those in the underserved communities at a time when the future of healthcare is very much in question.

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