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Gov. Deal picks interim Georgia public health director

Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal was appointed interim commissioner of the state’s Department of Public Health Friday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

O’Neal, director of Health Protection for the agency, was named to replace DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, who was appointed by President Trump to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Dr. Fitzgerald has led the public health agency since 2001. She had previously served on the state Board of Education and as a health care advisor to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the late-Sen. Paul Coverdell.

O’Neal has overseen more than a dozen public health programs at DPH, including epidemiology, infectious disease, immunization, emergency preparedness efforts and the Georgia Public Health Lab. He previously practiced emergency medicine for 29 years at DeKalb Medical Center.

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