Division of Public Health Administrator Jane Smith is retiring Sept. 30 from a public service career that spans more than 26 years. She led a number of major initiatives that will have a lasting impact on the health of Idaho residents. Smith will be succeeded by Elke Shaw-Tulloch, current bureau chief for Community and Environmental Health.
Smith, a registered nurse, began her career in the medical field as an OBGYN nurse, working for a hospital and private physician practice in Boise. She began her public health career in the high-risk pregnancy prevention program at Central District Health Department before coming to state public health in 1986. Jane held a number of bureau chief positions while also serving as deputy administrator. She was chosen as public health administrator in 2006.
“I love what I do and have such a great staff, which makes it really hard to leave,” she says. During her public health career, Smith has led many key initiatives for the state— including lead safety in north Idaho’s Silver Valley; immunization legislation to improve children’s health; and emergency preparedness to develop the capacity to respond to acts of bioterrorism, outbreaks and other public health threats.
“What is most rewarding is being part of the legacy issues that have a lasting and positive impact to protect the health of whole populations,” she says. “We implemented the state’s first HIV and radon programs, established the immunization registry and later the mechanics to continue our universal coverage of vaccines, and have worked hard on tobacco initiatives that have lowered our state’s smoking rate, including the Department’s no-smoking policy. Our citizens enjoy clean water and safe food at restaurants because of public health. I am very proud to be part of this.”
Jane is going to be joining the adventures of her husband, Sherm, who has been retired for a year and a half. They plan on dividing their time between his fishing “shack” in Alaska, their homes in Boise and Las Vegas, and their campsite in Cascade.
Shaw-Tulloch has a master’s degree in environmental health and has worked 17 years for the Department. Her first job out of college was with a large corporation spending three years doing environmental work before taking one year off to pursue her passion — to dance full time. After dancing part-time for a contemporary dance company, Idaho Dance Theatre, Shaw-Tulloch danced one year for a classical ballet company before joining the department in 1996.
Elke’s first DHW position involved working with the public and other western state agencies dealing with the health consequences of historical nuclear releases from Hanford, the Idaho National Laboratory and the Nevada Test Site. “During the first weeks of my job, they put in a public hotline for people to call if they believed they were suffering health effects from the sites. It was an emotionally draining experience, because I would get calls from very distraught and upset people with serious health concerns or conditions. It really showed me the importance of protecting public health on a very personal level.”
Elke moved on to Environmental Health Education and Assessment, dealing with hazardous waste, including work on the Silver Valley Superfund site. She became bureau chief for Environmental Health and Safety, which evolved under her leadership to become the Bureau of Community and Environmental Health in 2003.
“Both Jane and her predecessor, Dick Schultz, have created such a great legacy for Idaho Public Health, which I feel honored to continue,” she says. “We are going to continue the initiatives and priorities they developed, along with some very important opportunities that are being created by the Affordable Care Act. These are very exciting and defining times in public health.”