The Montgomery County, Maryland, health officer who recently announced his decision to leave the role has accepted a position with a San Francisco school-based telehealth company.
Hazel Health announced it has hired Dr. Travis Gayles, who recently announced his plans to retire from his role as the county’s chief of public health services in mid-September, as Chief Health Officer.
Hazel Health says its goal is to address unequal access to healthcare by developing pediatric telehealth systems. They partner with school districts around the country and provide telehealth access to around 2 million children, according to a news release.
Hazel Health said adding Gayles would help the company continue addressing issues associated with access to healthcare in America.
“At no time in any of our lives has access to meaningful health services been more important for children,” Gayles said in a statement. “Hazel Health has established itself as the leader in providing telehealth services to children across the country. This platform has enormous potential to change the way pediatric physical and mental health care is delivered and close the significant gaps that remain in access to care for children. I am excited to join the team to continue the tremendous growth and inspire even more innovation.”
Gayles announced his departure from Montgomery County on Aug. 18, while he was on vacation in Paris. He said his final day with the health department will be Sept. 12. He helped to guide much of the county’s health policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, County Executive Marc Elrich said the search for Gayles’ successor will start soon, emphasizing that “it’s not solely the county’s appointment.”
The county performs the search and sends candidates’ names to the state, Elrich said, adding that he recently met with Health Secretary Dennis Schrader.
“I made it clear that what we’re looking for is somebody who will be independent and will not give us political advice but will give us the best medical advice … somebody who has the courage to stand up and tell us the right thing to do, not tamper down the right thing to do because of political considerations.”
He added, “I need to be open about it because there’s no way that we would have gotten where we did if we had a health officer who was looking over their shoulder at what the governor wanted them to do.”
Elrich congratulated Gayles on his new role, saying “Hazel Health just hired the “Michael Jordan” of pediatricians. As I mentioned last week, I would clone Dr. Gayles if I could.”