Governor Dan McKee’s office announced today that Governor Mckee has regretfully accepted Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott’s resignation as the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).

For the next two weeks, Dr. Alexander-Scott will continue to serve as RIDOH’s Director while the Governor conducts a search for new leadership of the Department.

“Dr. Alexander-Scott has been a steady, calm presence for Rhode Island as we’ve worked together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Dan McKee in a press release. “Her leadership has been crucial to our whole of government response – helping Rhode Island become number one in testing nationwide and getting more people vaccinated per capita than nearly any other state in the country.”

“Serving as the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health has been the most rewarding experience of my career,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott in the statement. “I would like to thank all Rhode Islanders for their trust over the past two years as we have navigated this unprecedented public health crisis together. It has been an honor to serve you. I would also like to thank all the healthcare providers and community partners who have supported the work we have been doing at RIDOH since 2015 to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be healthy, regardless of their ZIP code, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, level of education, or level of income. And finally, I would like to express enormous gratitude to the members of my RIDOH family. They embraced me, taught me, challenged me, picked me up when I was down, and had my back every step of the way.”

To ensure continuity in RIDOH’s work on many public health issues, including COVID-19, Governor McKee’s office says that Dr. Alexander-Scott will serve as a consultant to the Department for three months following her departure. Dr. Alexander-Scott has served as Director of Health since April 2015. She is one of only five current State health directors across the country to serve as long.

“In addition to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Alexander-Scott has advocated for and secured funding for Rhode Island’s new health laboratory, a legacy that will help improve the health of Rhode Islanders for generations to come and keep our state at the forefront in detecting and preventing future pandemics,” continued Governor Dan McKee. “I thank Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott for her dedication to public health and public service.”

Governor McKee’s office provided the following background on some of Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott’s accomplishment’s as RIDOH Director;

  • Co-leading Rhode Island’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2019, months before Rhode Island had identified its first case. Dr. Alexander’s work helped establish and maintain a COVID-19 testing effort that has been the best in the nation. She contributed to efforts that set an example nationally for getting schools open and kids in the classroom, and she helped steer a vaccination effort that has resulted in some of the highest coverage rates in the country.
  • Implementing a new public health vision at RIDOH centered on addressing health disparities and striving for health equity through work on the community level factors that most impact health outcomes. For example, RIDOH’s Health Equity Zone (HEZ) initiative has emerged as a national model for improving health outcomes by bringing community collaboratives – including municipal leaders, residents, businesses, transportation and community planners, law enforcement, and educators – together to address the socioeconomic and environmental determinants of health.   
  • Co-leading Rhode Island’s response to the drug overdose crisis. Dr. Alexander-Scott partnered with other State and community leaders to vastly expand access to treatment for substance-use disorder, destigmatize substance-use disorder, get naloxone into the hands of people throughout Rhode Island, expand peer recovery supports throughout the state, and set Rhode Island up to open some of the first Harm Reduction Centers in the nation. 
  • Securing $82 million in funding for a new Rhode Island Center of Excellence for Laboratory Sciences to house RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories, as well as private laboratories that will contribute to Rhode Island’s burgeoning life sciences sector. This new Rhode Island Center of Excellence for Laboratory Sciences will make Rhode Island better prepared for any future epidemic or pandemic with improved public health services, be an economic driver for the state, and foster more collaboration with private industry and academic institutions.

Reaction

Following the announcement of Alexander-Scott’s departure, several high-ranking officials issued statements.

Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos’ Statement on Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott stepping down as the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health

“Dr. Alexander-Scott has been a source of comfort and indispensable knowledge for all of Rhode Island, especially as she’s helped shepherd our state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a fellow woman leader of color, I am immensely proud of her selfless service and steadfast leadership. Rhode Island is so well positioned to continue its battle with this virus thanks in large part to Dr. Alexander-Scott’s selfless dedication to public service and public health. I wish her the best in her future endeavors, but today, I want to say thank you.” 

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who are both Democratic Gubernatorial candidates, also issued statements.

Statement from Treasurer Magaziner on the Departure of Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott from her Role as Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner today made the following statement on the departure of Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott as Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott has been an incredible leader in her role as Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, and every Rhode Islander has benefitted from her sound judgment and expertise through the Covid-19 pandemic,” said General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.

“I thank Dr. Alexander Scott for her tireless commitment to keeping Rhode Islanders safe and informed throughout her tenure. She has saved countless lives, and tirelessly advocated for correcting the health inequities that plague our state. Her voice and presence will be profoundly missed, and it is important now, more than ever, for Governor McKee and all Rhode Islanders, to listen to experts like her as we navigate the pandemic and work together to build a healthier state.”

Secretary Nellie Gorbea’s Statement on Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott’s Departure from the RI Department of Health 

Today, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea released a statement on Dr. Alexander-Scott leaving the Rhode Island Department of Health. 

“Like many Rhode Islanders, I have deeply valued Dr. Alexander-Scott’s leadership during the pandemic and these unprecedented times. Her departure creates a real vacuum in leadership during the biggest public health crisis in a generation. 

After recent reports of failed action on the part of Gov. Dan McKee, her departure signals a lack of confidence in his leadership and handling of COVID19. 

Rhode Island needs leadership now that will face the stark realities of the pandemic head-on, to ensure that we are taking our public health and safety seriously while securing Rhode Island’s economic stability.

I know her team at the RI Department of Health will remain committed to keeping us all safe, but we will miss her exceptional leadership through this crisis. On behalf of all Rhode Islanders, I thank Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott for her tireless and exceptional contribution to our state. I know she will succeed in her future pursuits.”

Statement from House Minority Leader Blake Filippi on the resignation of Department of Health Director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott

House Republican Leader Blake A. Filippi issued the following statement regarding the resignation of Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott:

We wish Dr. Alexander-Scott well in her future endeavors, and look forward to a fresh perspective to navigate Rhode Island’s comeback.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).