Opening Keynote: John Hellerstedt, MD, former DSHS commissioner


Eli Kirshbaum


We were honored to welcome John Hellerstedt, MD, the former commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), to open the 2023 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference last month with a keynote address.


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During his remarks, the seasoned health leader offer his insight about the future of public health in Texas and the entire US, drawing on his experience leading the state’s health department during the COVID-19 pandemic, which he likened to a “war.”

“It is essential for American society to come to consensus about our response to the pandemic, because the lack of common vision and resolve that currently prevails risks [causing] the next disaster—whatever it may be—will devolve into catastrophe because no one trusts the only institutions capable of optimizing our ability to prepare, resist, and recover.”

He also offered valuable input about how science should be incorporated into the policymaking process.

“Science cannot, and should not, dictate public policy. I sincerely hope you retain this insight. Science and scientific institutions can advise, but science cannot dictate policy because science is not able and not authorized to strike a balance amongst a myriad of opposing needs and interests that have defined every human society from the beginning of time. It’s politics.”

Watch Hellerstedt’s full keynote above.