By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — The long-time director of Kentucky’s public health laboratory has been named the commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes appointed Dr. Stephanie Mayfield Wednesday as Kentucky’s top health official. Dr. Steve Davis, deputy commissioner for the department, has been serving as interim public health commissioner for the past 14 months.
Mayfield, who has overseen the state’s health laboratory since 2005, takes over during while many of the 59 local health departments in Kentucky are financially struggling. The health departments have seen their budgets cut in recent years, leading to some lay offs and furloughs. As the state’s top health official, Mayfield will oversee the state’s largest health care system.
Under her direction, the state’s health laboratory has been transformed into one of the best in the nation, Haynes said. The lab has been noted for its enhancements in disease testing and screening, winning several national and international awards for its work. It has also been a leader in health care information technology, said Haynes.
In May 2011, the state lab team introduced a rapid tuberculosis test, which reduced turnaround time for tuberculosis detection from four weeks to six hours. Mayfield also expanded the state’s newborn screening test panel from four to 50 tests, which has helped doctors diagnose and treat disorders in newborns earlier.
Mayfield completed her medical residency at the University of Louisville and received her medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. She earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It’s truly an honor and a challenge to be selected to serve as Kentucky’s state health official,” said Mayfield. “Kentucky’s Department for Public Health is on the job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to pre-empt and mitigate deadly germs and harmful substances through coordinated activities with our local health departments, universities, as well as other local, state and federal agencies.”
Mayfield will take over the job on Oct. 1