Governor Dan McKee
Governor Dan McKee. Photo courtesy of Governor Dan McKee Facebook Page

Governor Dan McKee today announced a team to support the transition at the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) while the search continues for a permanent director.

On January 13, it was announced that Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott would be resigning as the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“Our Administration has moved quickly to put an experienced leadership team in place at the Rhode Island Department of Health to ensure that our COVID-19 response remains strong,” said Governor Dan McKee in a statement. “I thank Dr. McDonald, Assistant Secretary Novais, Ernie Almonte, and Chris Abhulime for stepping up and I look forward to continuing to work with all of them during this transition. I also want to thank the career staff at the Department of Health who continue to do the work of ensuring access to quality health services for all Rhode Islanders.”

More on the leadership team from Governor McKee’s office;

James McDonald, MD, MPH has served at RIDOH as a Medical Director and as the Chief Administrative Officer of the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline since 2012. He has helped steer the State response to the drug overdose crisis, and he has been a key member of Rhode Island’s COVID-19 leadership team. Prior to his time at RIDOH, Dr. McDonald served as the Director of Health Services for the Naval Health Clinic New England in Newport. He earned his MD from Loyola Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, he did his pediatric residency in the U.S. Navy, and he did his preventive medicine residency through the State University of New York. He earned his MPH from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Dr. McDonald is board certified in pediatrics and preventive medicine. His diverse career includes officership in the U.S. Navy. He lives in North Kingstown with his wife and three children.

Dr. McDonald will assume the day-to-day responsibilities of RIDOH Director while the search for a permanent candidate continues.

Ana Novais has over 35 years of public health experience. She currently serves as Assistant Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Prior to that, she worked at RIDOH for several years as Deputy Director; Education and Outreach Coordinator focusing on children’s health issues; and as the Minority Health Coordinator, charged with assuring the Department addressed the health needs of racial and ethnic minority communities. During that time, she led efforts to achieve health equity by focusing on health disparities and access to care, chronic disease management and prevention, environmental health, and maternal and child health; and she was charged with implementing the department’s strategic priorities. Novais holds a Clinical Psychology degree from UCLN, Belgium, and is a graduate from the Northeastern Public Health Leadership Institute, University of Albany.

In this temporary assignment, Novais will be proving daily operational support to Dr. McDonald and the Department in areas such as policy, programming and legislative processes.

Ernie Almonte currently serves as Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. Prior to that, he was a business, government, and process improvement specialist with more than 40 years of experience. He has provided technical assistance on accounting and financial reporting issues to businesses, along with federal, state, and local governments. He also served for 16 years as the Rhode Island Auditor General where he was responsible for the State of Rhode Island financial, performance and fraud audits. In that role, Almonte was responsible for the $8 billion CAFR, audit of the RI Lottery financial statements and IT controls, provided due diligence on casino mergers and compliance with state agreements, insight on pensions, and audits of quasi-public agencies and municipalities. He has served in numerous positions as Chairperson of audit committees including the Department of Defense Audit Advisory Committee at the Pentagon, and as a member of the Government Auditing Standards Committee for the Comptroller General of the United States.
In this temporary assignment, Almonte will provide managerial support on department finances, budgeting, and other fiscal operations.

Chris Abhulime, DVM, MS, PMHNP-BC is Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Dan McKee. He will serve as the liaison between the advisors and the Governor’s Office. He is an accomplished clinical/biopharmaceutical scientist with over 15 years of technical, operational, and managerial experience in clinical immunology, diagnostic testing, regulated bioanalysis, quality assurance, assay validation, clinical trials, and lab automation. He is a board certified/licensed Psychiatric-Mental Nurse Practitioner and previously served as a Research Lab Manager at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He earned a Master of Science from Regis College, a Master’s degree in clinical laboratory science/medical technology from the University of Rhode Island, and a Doctor of Veterinary degree.

In this temporary assignment, Abhulime will provide operational support to the Department.

“Rhode Islanders should feel extremely confident in this team’s collective experience and knowledge as we diligently endeavor to find a new permanent RIDOH director,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “I’m especially proud that my Chief of Staff has answered the call to serve our state in this new critical role. Ernie’s talents, qualifications, and experience will certainly serve us well as we fight against this latest surge. My office continues to do everything within its power to support Rhode Island’s COVID-19 response efforts.”

“I am looking forward to leading the Rhode Island Department of Health in this interim capacity as we continue the critical work of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and delivering the dozens of other vital public health services on which Rhode Islanders rely,” said Dr. McDonald. “As a team, we will continue to work toward our aim of giving every Rhode Islander and every community an equal opportunity to be healthy and thrive.”
The Governor will continue to work with his team of health advisors to identify a permanent RIDOH Director.

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