Inslee appoints Dr. Umair Shah as new state secretary of health

Dr. Umair Shah

OLYMPIA, Wash. — In a press conference today Gov. Jay Inslee named Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH as the next Washington state secretary of health. He will start work for Washington on Dec. 21.

Currently, Dr. Shah is the executive director and local health authority for Harris County Public Health in Texas. There he manages 700 public health staff serving the 4.7 million residents in the nation’s third largest county.

“Dr. Shah brings an unrivaled expertise, knowledge and passion for public health,” Inslee said. “His leadership will help us lead Washington state through the next crucial phase of this pandemic.”

Before working for Harris County, Shah served as Galveston County’s chief medical officer and has over 20 years of experience as a Houston ER doctor.

“I am beyond honored to be asked by Governor Inslee to serve as Washington’s next secretary of health, building onto the dedicated team and strong leadership championed by John Wiesman at the Department of Health,” Shah said. “Without question, the number one priority for me is to work with the team to continue the fight against COVID-19 and help Washingtonians through these challenging times.”

Shah comes into the position with extensive experience responding to public health crises. He has helped lead Harris County through novel H1N1, Ebola, Zika and now COVID-19 and has responded to a variety of hurricanes and other emergencies.

“This pandemic has highlighted the importance of public health and health care working together and I am confident my experience in both will serve the state of Washington well now during these difficult times, and into the future,” said Shah. “While I’m sad to leave Texas after so many years, all of us – my wife, our three kids and our puppy (Koko) – are excited to move to the Pacific Northwest.”