State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box announced Friday she would be retiring from her position on May 31. She was appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in October 2017 after Jerome Adams was selected as U.S. surgeon general.
During her time as state health commissioner, Box has overseen the governor’s Public Health Commission — which led to unprecedented investments in the state’s public health system; implemented the My Health Baby program statewide to address maternal and infant mortality; and carried out an initiative to prevent lead poisoning in children 6 and younger through screenings.
“My view of public health was my narrow world of maternal and child health, right?” Box said. “Then when you become the state health commissioner, you realize those same disparities exist in pretty much every metric that we look at.”
Box became a public figure for Hoosiers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when she — along with Holcomb — gave regular updates to Hoosiers about the new virus and addressed misinformation. She led the state’s response and coordination with local, state and federal agencies and health organizations to secure personal protective equipment, testing partnerships and eventually vaccines.
Box said, responding to outstanding criticism of the Holcomb administration’s response to COVID-19, she doesn’t “really have major regrets.”
“Time will show that the state of Indiana really did this in a very – in our response, a very moderate way,” she said.
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In a statement, Holcomb thanked Box for finishing out the last year “to shepherd the state Department of Health’s most ambitious legislative agenda yet.”
“I could not have had a better partner in this role, especially in this time. She genuinely cares about the health and well-being of every single Hoosier, and because of her dedication to the betterment of our overall public health system, the state is at the forefront of transformational change that will result in a healthier Indiana,” Holcomb said.
Lawmakers made unprecedented investments in health funding in the two-year budget passed this legislative session: $225 million for local health departments and $100 million for mental health resources.
Before serving as state health commissioner, Box practiced women’s health for nearly three decades and served as a member of the state’s task force for neonatal abstinence syndrome, which affects newborns exposed to addictive substances in the womb.
Reflecting on her tenure as state health commissioner, Box said she struggles to point to just one thing. But she said there was an underlying thread tying everything together.
“We realized the need to be able to establish a foundation to deliver public health services across the state in a different way,” Box said.
Holcomb has named Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana Department of Health chief medical officer, to replace Box.
Weaver led the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout and spearheaded the development of the statewide lab testing network. Box and Weaver were the two most visible members of Holcomb's administration — behind the governor himself — throughout the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So, I’m beyond honored, honestly, to try to even slightly fill these big shoes that Dr. Box has put before us,” Weaver said. “And over the last three years, we have formed an amazing team.”
Weaver chairs the Indiana Commission on Women and is an assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. She also practices at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
She takes over as state health commissioner on June 1.
This story has been updated.
Lauren is our digital editor. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.