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Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced that Dr. Bechara Choucair will step down at the end of December as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) after serving for five years in the position.
“Thanks to the outstanding work of Dr. Choucair, Chicago is a healthier city today and CDPH is seen as a national leader in public health,” said Mayor Emanuel. “We will miss him and his passion for helping Chicagoans live healthy lives.”
Dr. Choucair will be joining the leadership team at Trinity Health in early January as Senior Vice President for Safety Net Transformation and Community Health. Mayor Emanuel has appointed Dr. Julie Morita to be the new commissioner, pending City Council approval.
“I am grateful to Mayor Emanuel for providing me the opportunity to serve the people of Chicago,” said Dr. Choucair. “It has been an honor to work with CDPH staff, our partners and residents to make our city healthier.”
Under Dr. Choucair’s leadership, CDPH launched Healthy Chicago, the City’s first comprehensive public health agenda designed to create healthier neighborhoods across the City. Since the launch of Healthy Chicago, reports have shown obesity rates for kindergartners are declining, smoking rates for adults and teens are at historic lows, and life expectancy is up in every neighborhood and among every ethnic group in the City. CDPH was named the 2014 Local Health Department of the Year by the National Association of County and City Healthy Officials.
“Since launching Healthy Chicago, we have reported declines in childhood obesity rates and teen smoking rates while making real progress in our fight to close breast cancer disparities. There is more work to do, but because of Dr. Choucair’s hard work, we are moving in the right direction across the board,” Mayor Emanuel said. “I expect the progress to continue under the leadership of Dr. Morita.”
Dr. Morita has served the City for 15 years, most recently as CDPH chief medical officer.
“Dr. Morita has dedicated her career to improving the lives, health and safety of Chicago residents,” said Mayor Emanuel. “As CDPH Commissioner, Dr. Morita will continue this great work, making sure every resident has the resources, knowledge and opportunity to get and stay healthy.”
Dr. Morita is a board certified pediatrician. As medical director of CDPH’s Immunization Program, she fostered groundbreaking partnerships with health systems and the private sector and secured several competitive grant awards for the City. Dr. Morita helped launch the citywide influenza vaccination program, Vaccinate Chicago Week, which proved so successful it grew to Vaccinate Illinois Week last year. As Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Morita served as key advisor and liaison on all medical matters for the City and oversaw a broad range of CDPH programs including Food Protection, Environmental Permitting, Immunization and Communicable Disease. In this role, she has also led the City’s preparedness planning efforts related to the Ebola virus, including the launch of the Chicago Ebola Resource Network.
Born and raised in Chicago, Dr. Morita is a graduate of the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine.
“I am honored Mayor Emanuel has given me the opportunity to build on CDPH’s success to improve the health and well-being of every City resident,” said Dr. Morita. “As a Chicago native, nothing could be more rewarding than the opportunity to give back to the City that has provided me with so much.”