Dr. Richard Carmona

Gov. Doug Ducey, along with Don Herrington, the new interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, named Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, to serve as the senior advisor on public health emergency preparedness and lead a statewide effort to boost vaccine and public health awareness in Arizona. 

Carmona is a longtime Tucson resident who served as the U.S. Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006. He is the Distinguished Professor of Public Health at University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and most recently served as the director of the University of Arizona COVID Response Team

“I am honored Governor Ducey is entrusting me with this position,” said Carmona. “We have made a tremendous amount of progress but we still have much to do. There is no doubt in my mind that we are on the right track and that the single best way to crush COVID is with the vaccine and public health mitigation strategies.”

“I’m eager to take on the challenge,” he said. “COVID is the common enemy and all of us need to work together to defeat it. The state’s response to this global health emergency has been top-notch, and I look forward to building on Dr. Christ and her team’s success.”

Carmona has held numerous public health positions in Southern Arizona, including CEO of the Pima County Health Care System, chairman of the State of Arizona Southern Regional Emergency Medical System and medical director of the Arizona DPS Air Rescue Units and the Rural Metro Corporation. 

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967 at the age of 17 as a high school dropout. After leaving the Army’s Special Forces as a combat decorated Vietnam Veteran, he earned his associate’s degree from Bronx Community College of the City University of New York. He later graduated from the University of California, San Francisco with a bachelor’s degree and medical degree. He was awarded the Gold-Headed Cane as the top graduate. 

Carmona’s unique upbringing has given him a keen understanding of underserved communities and a strong commitment to serving those in need. As a child living in the Harlem section of New York, Carmona was homeless for a time, and learned many skills he would later need to lead a public health organization from his experiences and his “abuelita,” whom he said taught him more about community service than anyone else.  

“Dr. Carmona’s accomplishments are well-known in Arizona,” Ducey said. “He has a deep understanding of the health issues facing our state and his wealth of experience at all levels of government make him well suited to lead the state’s ongoing efforts to get the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of every Arizonan who wants it.”

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