Douglas County has a new board of health member after the county commissioners made the appointment final during a March 9 meeting.
Dr. Linda Fielding, a radiologist and associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, was unanimously approved by the commissioners to serve on the Tri-County Health Department's board of health.
Fielding, who is also the head of nuclear medicine at Denver Health Medical Center, represented Douglas County for the first time at a March 11 Tri-County board of health meeting.
The county received 23 applications for the vacancy and four candidates were interviewed as finalists on March 3 and 4. In the March 9 meeting, Commissioner Lora Thomas, the board's chair, said they ended up with two “very highly qualified” candidates.
“I think that during our deliberations the three of us made it clear that Dr. Fielding was extraordinary in her interview and of course her resume was equally extraordinary,” Commissioner George Teal said in the meeting.
The board's interviews with the candidates, which were conducted behind closed doors, were recorded and later released to Colorado Community Media via a public records request.
During the 14-minute video chat, Fielding spoke about her views that public health decisions should be made at a local level, “by the people who understand and are living with the consequences,” she said.
“You're the elected officials,” she said to the commissioners. “I don't want to be some unelected bureaucrat in a corner telling people what they have to do. I want to work with you.”
Commissioners asked mostly the same questions to each candidate, inquiring about the applicant's views on public health, their qualifications and what relationship they would like to have with commissioners if chosen.
“I think a public health board has to be accountable to the commissioners and to the citizens of where it's affecting them. I think it should be advisory and not tyrannical,” Fielding said. “I hope that we (the public health board) could bring the advice to you that then you would have a good foundation to make a decision.”
Fielding also emphasized that she believes there are more things to consider when making public health decisions than just infectious disease numbers, such as increased strain on mental health and impacts on jobs, she said.
In her interview, Fielding mentioned the governor of Texas' recent decision to reopen the state and repeal the mask mandate.
“We have to develop some type of a plan to get back to normality and we have to do this based on science, not on politics, not on fear,” she said.
Fielding went on to say she is in favor of a vaccination program, adding she believes the COVID-19 vaccine is “your best way to protect yourself and others.”
“I will try as much as I can … to be open to people and transparent,” she said.
Fielding attended Duke University for her undergraduate degree and then received a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
“It is an incredible honor to appoint somebody with such phenomenal experience and acumen as Dr. Linda Fielding,” Commissioner Abe Laydon said in the March 9 meeting.
The position became vacant after longtime board member Paulette Joswick resigned at the end of February, citing mounting stress from holding the position, health concerns and negative attention from some in the community. Joswick also said she was contacted by county staff ーacting on behalf of the county commissioners — and had conversations that she viewed as encouragement to resign.
The board of health came under significant scrutiny after it voted to enact a mask mandate in July of 2020. Joswick was the only representative of Douglas County to vote in favor.
Tri-County serves Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. Its board of health is made up of nine members, with three from each county.
“What motivates me is that I think after a time, if you have the experience, you need to serve,” Fielding said in her interview. ”You need to do something to give back to the community.”
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