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Douglas County health officer stepping down; says the local ‘team response to this pandemic serves as a model for other communities’

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Article updated at 8:43 a.m. Wednesday:

Dr. Thomas Marcellino, who has served as Douglas County health officer since before the COVID-19 pandemic, has submitted his resignation.

Dan Partridge, director of Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, shared the news with the Douglas County Health Board during its meeting Tuesday.

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It’s been “a very thankless job” for Marcellino, and for deputy health officer Jennifer Schrimsher, an infectious disease specialist at LMH Health who signed onto that role about a year ago, Partridge said.

Both doctors have been personally targeted throughout the pandemic in public comments during Douglas County Commission meetings to discuss health orders.

Partridge said Marcellino had suggested a date of March 1 for his resignation to go into effect. He said there were other implications for the transition to the next health officer — “It’s not just our pandemic response, but … we operate our family planning clinic because he’s there.”

In an emailed statement Wednesday morning, Marcellino said he feels incredibly fortunate to have served as the Douglas County health officer “for the last 10 years.”

“I have done my best to support the mission of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to advance the health for all residents in Douglas County. I have worked together with an incredibly talented, hardworking team consisting of community members from all walks of life,” he wrote. “We are truly blessed in Douglas County to have so many amazing volunteers, leaders, skilled workers and caring citizens. Our team response to this pandemic serves as a model for other communities.”

Marcellino wrote that he will continue to serve in his role as long as needed to make sure the transition is smooth.

“I am confident in the County and health department leadership and know that they will find a suitable replacement,” he continued. “I will continue to advocate for the health of all members of this community and support pandemic mitigation efforts. I look forward to my continued career as a local Family medicine physician; following my passion to promote healthy lifestyle choices.”

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-422-6363. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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