CHARLESTON — Dr. Ayne Amjad, the health official who has helped guide West Virginia through most of the COVID-19 pandemic, is stepping down from her role but will continue to advise Gov. Jim Justice going forward.
Justice announced Tuesday during his virtual briefing with reporters from the State Capitol Building that Amjad will step down as state health officer and commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau of Public Health as soon as a permanent replacement is appointed.
Instead, Amjad will step into a contract advisory role on public health matter and report directly to the Governor’s Office effective Oct. 1
“She is stepping down as a state employee and will serve on a contract basis as my senior adviser to the state health officer and commissioner for the Bureau of Public Health,” Justice said. “While she will be stepping down, she’s not going anywhere and she’s not leaving us … we’ve go to step back and thank her for her incredible services. She’s done a whale of a job.”
Amjad, a native of Raleigh County and a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School, worked as an internal medicine specialist with a medical degree from Marshall University and a master’s in public health from West Virginia University. She managed two practices in Beckley and Princeton and practiced medicine in southern West Virginia for a decade.
Amjad also has been a candidate for public office, running in the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District in 2018. Justice appointed Amjad as state health officer in July 2020. Amjad will return to her clinic practices in Southern West Virginia.
“It’s been the highlight of my career to serve with you and our entire team on the pandemic leadership team, as well as DHHR,” Amjad said to Justice. “I do miss my patients. That’s a great bond for me and a great way to know what’s going on. I do miss my part of this role, but I’m very happy to stay on and serve as need be and as long as I can.”
The Bureau of Public Health is an agency in the Department of Health and Human Resources, answering to Secretary Bill Crouch.
The bureau oversees several agencies including the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services and the state lab in South Charleston, both on the front lines of the pandemic.
“She will continue to provide medical oversight and function as the state health officer until a permanent replacement is made,” Crouch said. “Dr. Amjad has been a valuable member of DHHR’s leadership team and to me personally.”
Amjad replaced Dr. Cathy Slemp, who resigned in the summer of 2020 four months into the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020.
Slemp resigned after Justice expressed displeasure with her office’s handling of COVID-19 data and discrepancies in the number of active cases.
“Dr. Amjad came and stepped up at a time when we really, really needed somebody,” Justice said. “She is so smart that it is off the chart. And so kind and good at everything she does.”