New Public Health Officer Eager to See Lake County – Lake County Record-Bee

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LAKE COUNTY – If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, family and emergency physician Erik McLaughlin, MD, MPH, his wife and twin children would have packed their car and driven approximately 10 to 12 hours from their Las Vegas home to visit Lake County. McLaughlin looks forward to “seeing in person and connecting with” the diverse communities and citizens he will serve in his new role as Lake’s top health official. A year-long nationwide recruiting search ended on February 15, 2022, when the Board of Supervisors appointed him as the county’s public health officer (PHO). McLaughlin is expected to devote 80% of his time or 32 hours per week to his Lake County responsibilities.

For now, the adventure-loving McLaughlin family must content themselves with looking at photos of Clear Lake and its surroundings, websites, and maps of biking and hiking trails in the area. “Usually before I play a role, I go to the site, travel and see the location,” McLaughlin said in a phone interview. “I’m looking forward to that chance when I can do it safely. If it was any other time, I’d be up there dragging fish out of the lake. Our visit would depend on the rate of illness.

McLaughlin, 47, is Lake’s fifth PHO in as many years. He replaces Dr. Gary Pace who resigned in April 2021, after having held the position for nearly two years. Pace and two other doctors, Dr. Charlie Evans and Dr. Evan Bloom, have taken turns as Lake’s acting PHO for the past year. McLaughlin isn’t surprised to hear about the high turnover of healthcare professionals in rural areas, saying, “In 2018, I gave a presentation on turnovers. Rural medicine tends to have a high turnover rate. People may have high qualifications but may not like the area. It is more difficult to recruit for rural communities. It takes a unique race to want to be in rural medicine.

County officials hope McLaughlin can start his new job by March 1, pending approval of his medical license in California. Him too. To date, he is licensed to practice medicine in eight states – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, as well as Australia. He hopes to get his California license soon. “There are alumni from my university practicing in California,” said McLaughlin, who earned her medical degree from St. Christopher’s College of Medicine in Dakar, Senegal, and her master’s degree in public health from Tulane School. of Public Health in New Orleans, both in 2005. “I started going through the California licensing process a while ago. The process can take three to five months. Obtaining medical licenses is difficult, but councils have fast-tracked licenses due to COVID and for areas in need. I did everything I had to do. We are just waiting. Everything is in the hands of the California Medical Board.

In the meantime, McLaughlin is making a “mental list” of things he would like to do as soon as he can get started. “I hate being reactive,” he said. “COVID is going to dictate a lot, but we have to look at TB, HIV and opioids. I would like to take advantage of the great environment in the county to fight against heart disease, years of life lost, traffic accidents, etc. Many programs were abandoned when COVID hit.

McLaughlin doesn’t see living some 700 miles away in Nevada as a barrier to working for Lake County, pointing out that the pandemic, while “a curse was also a blessing.” It has accelerated and expanded the use of telephone, video or computer communication technologies and has given patients convenient access to healthcare and healthcare providers from anywhere through telehealth or telemedicine.

“There is no substitute for hands-on care, but COVID has revealed that we can work competently through video and telemedicine,” McLaughlin commented. “You can be everywhere at once. I can Face Time with someone remotely. I have the ability to review demographic data sets and interpret needs, review and prioritize goals. Lake County has plenty of room to improve health metrics. We can build bridges, plan and carry out projects. The idea of ​​having to spend 24/7 in the same place has disappeared. Gone are the days of being physically planted on the same site.

And working remotely is nothing new for the multilingual doctor who was born in San Diego and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Much of his time in 17 years of clinical medical practice has been devoted to global health and the world stage. “I’ve managed projects in Australia and been a PHO and doctor on six continents,” he added. McLaughlin said he started several businesses and was the chief medical officer of a clinical practice management and healthcare consulting firm that has domestic and overseas clients. He has provided clinical services to federal entities such as the Indian Health Service within the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defence, Veterans Administration, Disease Control and Prevention Centers. diseases, the State Department, the Department of Energy, and physicians around the world.

McLaughlin also served as county medical director for Cochise County Health in Arizona. “Most of my work there was done remotely,” he noted. “The problems we faced are the same. We also have several Las Vegas based businesses that are not specific to Las Vegas and have no connection to Las Vegas. We moved there just before the pandemic and stayed there due to COVID-19.

He continued: “Competent doctors cross paths. I have other duties. I am a professor of public health. This keeps me informed. I also have a support role for other entities from which I cannot free myself. Now is not the right time to bail people out due to the pandemic. As an adjunct professor at Illinois Benedictine University, McLaughlin teaches courses in public health and global health to online/distance students.

At various times in his career, McLaughlin worked as an emergency physician in the rural Arizona communities of Nogales, Springerville, Show Low, Douglas, and Parker, as well as in Choctaw, Mississippi, where he provided care to an “underserved Native American population”. “For McLaughlin, rural health is a passion and the patient population is what he wants to work with. “I am drawn to rural medicine. I grew up in a town near Tucson where there were more cows than people,” he explained. In rural towns, relationships are so much more real. People there have ideas along the lines of mine. They do the same things. They are usually the ones I want to be around. They have barriers to care and need more care.

Where opinions may differ, such as the pandemic, he hopes to work in tandem with his community partners. “At the end of the day, it’s about building trust and building bridges,” he said. “As a doctor, I can offer opinions and science. What matters most to me is that people are in good health, not political positions, not polls. I care about death rates and disease incidence. It’s like working as a choirmaster – if you harmonize you can have a great result. My role is to present information, evidence and medical concepts in simple and actionable form and communicate them to others. You may not like what your teammates are doing, respect that. But work together. It’s a give-and-take. We are here to help, not to hurt. »

He recognizes that Lake County has the type of environment he wants to be in, but living in one place permanently may not fit his plans. He and his family like to travel and see different things. “Everyone in my family is pretty adventurous,” he admitted. “We love meeting new people. The lack of mobility is our challenge. I see myself spending time in Lake and looking at houses. I don’t think we would move to one place, grow old and die there. We can never be exclusive full time anywhere. It appears Lake County has a large patient population. Can’t wait to visit – being outdoors, rock climbing. For me, it’s always nice to be where my family is, no matter where we are.

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