Governor JB Pritzker has appointed Dr. Sameer Vohra, a pediatrician and health care policy expert, to lead the Illinois Department of Public Health beginning Aug 1. Vohra, the founding chair of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Department of Population Science and Policy, follows Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who stepped down in March after leading IDPH and the state of Illinois through the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Ezike’s departure, IDPH has been led on an interim basis by Dr. Amaal Tokars, the department’s assistant director since June 2020.

Vohra is a practicing pediatrician who holds degrees in law and public policy. He works at the state and federal level on health policy formation, and his recent focus has been on improving health outcomes in central and southern Illinois.

Vohra is the interim chair of the Children’s Mental Health Partnership for the state of Illinois and also serves on IDPH’s Illinois State Board of Health, the Illinois Medicaid Advisory Committee, the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council and recently completed a term on the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund Steering Committee.

“Dr. Vohra is accomplished in every sense of the word,” said Pritzker. “His experience and education transcend sectors and fields, bringing a well-rounded perspective to this agency. As a leader in state and national health policy, I have absolute confidence in Dr. Vohra’s ability to continue shaping a stronger IDPH for the 21st century.”

Vohra completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Chicago and earned a Master of Arts in public policy from the University of Chicago. He holds a medical doctorate from SIU-SOM and a juris doctorate from SIU School of Law.

Vohra was named one of Springfield Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 in 2017. He has received numerous other honors including a United States Fulbright Scholarship in 2009, an American Medical Association Foundation’s Excellence in Medicine Leadership Award in 2014 and was named an Edgar Fellow in 2016 as one of 40 emerging political and policy leaders in Illinois. In 2020, he was named a Presidential Leadership Scholar, chosen by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the Clinton Presidential Center, the George and Barbara Bush Foundation, and the LBJ Foundation.

“I am humbled that the governor has entrusted me to serve the people of our state as the 20th director of the Illinois Department of Public Health,” said Vohra.  “Governor Pritzker, along with the dedicated staff of IDPH, have served our state admirably during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am honored to lead this agency into the future, continuing to keep us safe from emerging illnesses, supporting our public health workers and promoting wellness in every community across Illinois.”