Deputy Director Gwen Sims appointed interim executive director of Harris County Public Health

Gwen Sims first joined Harris County Public Health in 1997. (Courtesy Harris County Public Health)
Gwen Sims first joined Harris County Public Health in 1997. (Courtesy Harris County Public Health)

Gwen Sims first joined Harris County Public Health in 1997. (Courtesy Harris County Public Health)

Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously appointed Gwen Sims to serve as the interim executive director of Harris County Public Health in anticipation of Executive Director Umair Shah's departure Dec. 18. Sims, who currently serves as the deputy director of HCPH, will serve in the new role until a permanent executive director can be hired.

The appointment comes just weeks after Shah announced Nov. 17 that he would be leaving the department in mid-December to serve as the secretary of health for the state of Washington. Shah joined HCPH in 2004 as its deputy director and as the director for disease control and clinical prevention. He was appointed executive director by Harris County Commissioners Court in 2013.

"We know that COVID-19 is seeing a resurgent yet again in Harris County—it never really got to where it needed to be—but the numbers are very scary in the county and very scary in the state," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said during the Dec. 1 meeting. "We need to do everything we can to make sure that we have an aggressive and consistent operations of—not just the COVID-19 response—but everything else that the Public Health Department does, which is important work, particularly now."

To ensure consistency in the department's operations, Hidalgo said the court would draw on current HCPH staff to help fill Shah's role while an expedited national search for a permanent executive director is executed. Hidalgo added that a committee of the chiefs of staff of each member of the Commissioners Court will be tasked with launching the search and that Joshua Stuckey will serve as the chief transition officer.

"We [will] also take advantage of the fact that we have a number of health-specific executive search firms that we just happen to have in place so that we can recruit high-quality candidates quickly for a new public health director," Hidalgo said.


According to HCPH's website, Sims is a registered and licensed dietitian who joined HCPH in 1997. As Sims is not a doctor of medicine, Hidalgo added that Sims would be tasked with appointing a local health authority who is a doctor of medicine during her time as interim executive director.

Prior to her current role as deputy director, Sims served as the director of Nutrition and Chronic Disease Prevention for HCPH. Sims also serves as Champion for the Collaborate Activities, Recognition & Events Workgroup and has provided oversight and guidance for a number of other department organizations, including the Drug Abuse Prevention Taskforce; the Chronic Disease Tag-Up; the Injury Prevention Tag-Up; the Social, Emotional and Mental Well-Being Tag-Up; the Maternal & Child Wellness Taskforce; Obesity Reduction and Tobacco Cessation community projects; Health Education; and Healthy Living Matters.

Outside of HCPH, Sims serves as chair elect of Cancer Alliance of Texas, as vice president of L.I.F.E. Houston and as a board member for Houston Recovery Center Technical Assistance Group, among other roles.
By Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. In January 2019, she was promoted to serve as the editor of the Spring/Klein edition where she covers Spring ISD and Harris County Commissioners Court, in addition to business, development and transportation news.


MOST RECENT

Cy-Fair ISD recently added 266 propane buses to its total fleet. Funded by the 2019 bond package, the buses account for approximately 30% of the district’s total fleet and provide cleaner emissions. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair ISD's 2019 bond program funds new propane buses to replace diesel vehicles

Propane buses now account for about 30% of the district's entire fleet.

ExxonMobil moved employees from its Springwoods Village campus to a Hughes Landing to cure a default on a Montgomery County tax abatement. (Courtesy ExxonMobil)
ExxonMobil resolves tax abatement default; Home Depot distribution center taking over superfund site; and more top Houston-area news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

The University of St. Thomas is a private Catholic college in Houston. It also has a microcampus in downtown Conroe. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
University of St. Thomas offering free tuition to first 500 students who apply

The online degrees are in the following fields: cybersecurity, network technology, electronic technology, general business, and alcohol and drug dependency counseling.

Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 has begun construction on the first of three phases for its new 43-acre, state-of-the-art campus located in Spring, according to a May 7 news release. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 begins construction on new 43-acre campus

The campus will house ESD No. 11's new ambulance service, which is scheduled to launch Sept. 4 when the district's contract with current service provider, Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services, expires.

The Texas Department of State Health Services projects a significant shortage of nurses by 2032. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: Why Texas faces a growing nursing shortage and what can be done to address it

In 2018, the state health department estimated about 11% of the demand for nurses was not able to be met, and that number is expected to rise to 16.3% by 2032.

Evolve Alchemy moved less than a mile from its former location on FM 2920 and opened in a new, larger space at 3624 FM 2920, Ste. 1, Spring, on May 5. (Courtesy Evolve Alchemy)
Evolve Alchemy moves to larger space on FM 2920 in Spring

The business sells intention and herbal candles, crystals and stones, incense, jewelry, smudge and other items used in meditation practice and energy work.

The practice is led by Stoni Johnston, who is a licensed and board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. (Courtesy Sulcata Psychiatry)
Sulcata Psychiatry in Vintage Park now scheduling appointments for June

Patients who schedule appointments for June prior to May 31 will receive a 15% discount.

POPPS opened in its new, larger location in Old Town Spring at 216 Midway St., Spring, on April 29. (Courtesy POPPS)
Gourmet popcorn shop POPPS moves to larger space in Old Town Spring

The self-proclaimed "Purveyors of Perfect Popcorn" boast more than 30 varieties of small-batch, artisan popcorn with flavors ranging from dill pickle and barbecue bacon to caramel pecan and cinnamon red hot.

HTV
Houston, Harris County annual addresses no longer hosted by Greater Houston Partnership over Texas voter bill dispute

Local leaders criticized the area chamber of commerce for not taking a definitive stance on two voting access bills currently being deliberated in the Texas Legislature.

The new location is Chipotle's first in Magnolia. (Courtesy Chipotle Mexican Grill)
Chipotle opens in Magnolia; get a sneak peek of new Houston aquarium and more metro news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

The business specializes in customized in-home consultations during which families will receive a fire safety plan specific to their house's floor plan and an age-appropriate, individualized plan for each family member. (Courtesy Fire Smart, LLC)
Fire Smart, LLC celebrates one year of providing fire safety education across Greater Houston area

The business specializes in customized in-home consultations during which families will receive a fire safety plan specific to their house's floor plan and an age-appropriate, individualized plan for each family member.