Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Dr. Ron Voorhees Leaving After 18 Years at Health Department
SANTA FE Dr. Ron Voorhees, who has played a key role in solving health crises in New Mexico, is moving to Pennsylvania after 18 years with the state Department of Health.
''He's leaving with 4,000 people grabbing him by the ankle and saying, ''Don't go,''' said Health Department spokesman Kay Bird. ''He is much loved.''
Last summer, Voorhees married Dr. Karen Kelly, a psychiatrist who works with military veterans in Pennsylvania, and has been spending a lot of time traveling back and forth, said department spokeswoman Deborah Busemeyer.
It's going to be ''a terrible loss'' because of Voorhees' knowledge of epidemiology and infectious diseases, said Alex Valdez, who headed the department under former Gov. Gary Johnson.
Voorhees, a Los Alamos native, began working for the agency in 1989 as a medical epidemiologist. Eventually, he became its chief medical officer.
Shortly after he began work, the department began receiving reports from Santa Fe and Los Alamos doctors about patients with unexplained muscle pain. Voorhees was part of an investigation that discovered the syndrome was caused by a contaminant in an over-the-counter supplement, L-Tryptophan.
''We got it off the market before the feds did,'' Voorhees said.
He also was part of the investigation into a deadly respiratory illness around the Four Corners region in 1993. The Health Department ultimately identified it as hantavirus, which humans contract by inhaling dried urine or feces of infected rodents.
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