LAKE COUNTY, Calif. (March 27, 2019) – On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors acted to install Dr. Erin Gustafson as permanent Public Health Officer (PHO). Dr. Gustafson was initially appointed Lake County’s Deputy PHO in November 2017, and elevated to Interim PHO in October 2018.
“This is an important step for the County of Lake,” shares Board Chair, Tina Scott. “Dr. Gustafson has the background and quality of character required to encourage better population health outcomes. We hope many will get the chance to meet Erin at our next round of Community Visioning Forums, which will focus upon health and wellness.”
The early days of Gustafson’s work for the County have brought no shortage of trying circumstances. She has met them with tact, grit, and determination.
“I chose Lake County because of the extraordinary opportunity to make an impact on the health of the population,” affirms Gustafson. “Lake County faces challenging economic and social conditions, along with major natural disasters every year since 2015. This is a resilient community that is collaborating to make a positive impact on the health of all of our citizens.”
Gustafson’s swift and insightful work in response to the Mendocino Complex wildfires spoke volumes to her capacity and commitment.
“We dedicated ourselves to ensuring the community was safe, particularly that evacuations of healthcare facilities were accomplished expeditiously and the shelters had their medical needs met.” Gustafson’s own expedient efforts, informed by experience investigating infectious disease outbreaks for the New York State Department of Health, stemmed the spread of a stomach virus in an emergency shelter.
Dr. Gustafson holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Kansas State University and an MD from the University of Kansas’ School of Medicine. She completed two years of residency training in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Orange County/UC Irvine before her passion for population health led her to Preventive Medicine. Public Health has been her consistent focus, ever since. Gustafson weds a strong aspirational vision to great compassion and a commitment to meeting people where they are at.
“During my residency, I learned that only a small percentage of health is a result of medical care, with the remainder coming from the context of community and the social and economic conditions. I am excited to continue to lead Lake County’s response to the opioid epidemic, and create a sustainable harm reduction model. Not every drug user, for example, will change from education, alone, and activities such as syringe exchange and increased distribution of naloxone save lives.”
She has already begun work to increase access to Hepatitis C treatment for County residents through UC San Francisco’s Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), and led efforts to realize the best possible local emergency medical care system. Much lies ahead.
“The Board’s Vision, ‘Considering and promoting the well-being and economic resilience of every Lake County resident,’ will require broad contributions from within and outside of the County,” acknowledges Gustafson. “I look forward to continuing to lead through open communication and collaboration with strategic partners.”