The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced on September 8th that John Hellerstedt, MD, will be stepping down as the Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) at the end of the month after 14 years of service.
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Hellerstedt, who has led the department since 2016, is retiring from state service effective September 30th.
His successor will be Chief State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Shuford, who was named Interim Commissioner upon Hellerstedt’s retirement announcement.
Earning his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Pittsburgh and completing his General Pediatrics Residency at the University of Texas-San Antonio Health Science Center, Hellerstedt moved to Austin in 1981 where he practiced office-based general pediatrics for 18 years with Austin Regional Clinic.
Hellerstedt entered public service in 2000 at the Department of Health as the Medical Director of the Bureau of Medicaid Managed Care and CHIP.
The following year, he became Medical Director for the Medicaid CHIP Division of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. He was awarded Child Advocate of the Year in 2007 by the Texas Pediatric Society.
Hellerstedt leaves a lasting legacy of spearheading the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a keynote address at the 2022 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference in March, Hellerstedt spoke to the effectiveness of state measures to address the public health crisis.
“We need to look back at what [DSHS] did and understand how successful it was,” Hellerstedt said. “It was very painful. But I say we’re successful because we’re here. We’re still able to have our economy function, which is not just about making money. As we know, it’s all about having vital goods and services available to keep the society moving. We have done that and I will tell you, early on, if we hadn’t taken the countermeasures that we did, which were in fact effective, we really put at risk the idea that we would not be able to carry forward with society in the same way that we have been able to.”