Delaware Public Health director Rattay announces departure

By Tim Mastro
Posted 5/13/22

DOVER — Dr. Karyl Rattay announced Friday that she will be leaving her role as director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, effective June 30. 

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Delaware Public Health director Rattay announces departure


DOVER — Dr. Karyl Rattay announced Friday that she will be leaving her role as director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, effective June 30. 

Dr. Rattay assumed her position in 2009, during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, and is the nation’s longest serving public health director.

She indicated that, while she is not ready to announce her next role, she is excited about new opportunities and believes this is a good time to transition the division to its next leader. DPH said she would not be available for an interview.

As Delaware’s state health official, Dr. Rattay leads nearly 1,000 employees who promote health, reduce health inequities and protect Delawareans from disease, environmental hazards and public health emergencies.

“It has been the greatest honor of my lifetime to serve Delawareans in this role," said Dr. Rattay. “I am grateful for the opportunity to have served under Gov. (John) Carney and Gov. (Jack) Markell before him. I could not be prouder of the DPH team and what we have accomplished together over the past 13 years.”

Gov. Carney praised her tenure.

“When you work with someone through a crisis, you really see what they’re made of. Dr. Rattay is smart, steady, focused and committed,” he said. "Most importantly though, she is kind and compassionate. Her style of leadership and her work ethic are what helped Delaware make it through this pandemic. And the work Dr. Rattay did at Public Health in the decade leading up to the pandemic is why her team was ready and able to step up and manage this crisis.

"We will miss Dr. Rattay as a member of our team, and I am personally grateful to her for all she did to lead us through this once-in-a-generation public health crisis.”

Dr. Rattay said leading the state through the pandemic, which she termed “the greatest public health crisis in a century,” has tested those in public health departments professionally and personally.

DPH noted that Dr. Rattay and her team have:

  • Succeeded in becoming one of the first 16 states in the nation to achieve and maintain full accreditation from the national Public Health Accreditation Board.
  • Launched the first State Health Improvement Plan and multiyear agency strategic plans.
  • Significantly reduced infant mortality rates by nearly 30% from 2015-19 through close collaboration with many maternal and child health partners, plus logged a 25% reduction in unintended pregnancies through Delaware Contraceptives Access Now.
  • Saw a 14% reduction in cancer mortality rates through a comprehensive statewide prevention, screening and treatment plan.
  • Worked with the legislature to pass a bill increasing the age to buy tobacco products to 21 and added e-cigarettes to Delaware’s Clean Indoor Air Act.
  • In conjunction with the University of Delaware and the Delaware Community Foundation, spearheaded the creation of the Healthy Communities Delaware initiative — a place-based partnership with communities to address their most important social determinants of health.
  • Played the state’s leading role in responding to multiple health threats, including COVID-19, H1N1, Superstorm Sandy, Ebola, Zika virus, tuberculosis outbreaks and others.
  • Launched the My Healthy Community data portal in 2019, bringing Delaware public health data down to the ZIP code level, including community characteristics, the environment, chronic disease, mental health and substance use, air quality, asthma-incidence data, public and private drinking water results, and drug overdose and death data. In 2020, when the pandemic began, DPH used My Healthy Community to report COVID-19 data, again down to the ZIP code level in many cases. It was one of the most robust coronavirus data sites in the country.
  • Assumed a leadership role in addressing the state’s opioid crisis.
  • Added the Medical Marijuana Program in 2014 to administer medical marijuana cards for eligible Delawareans and to license and oversee compassion centers in all three counties.
  • Added the Office of Animal Welfare in 2013, based on the recommendations of the General Assembly Animal Welfare Task Force and as a way to coordinate animal companion programs in Delaware.

“In her 13 years as our director of the Division of Public Health, Dr. Karyl Rattay has been driven by a singular focus: how could she and her team improve and protect the health and well-being of the Delawareans they serve,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik. “Her values, her work ethic and her passion for this work have never wavered. She believes in meeting communities where they are, listening to stakeholders across the spectrum and building public health responses that are tailored to the populations we are serving. On behalf of the employees of DHSS and the people of Delaware, I offer my heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Rattay (for) her leadership, her innovative spirit and her commitment to our state.”

Dr. Rattay has earned multiple honors and awards. In 2019, she was given the prestigious Arthur T. McCormack Award by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials for her leadership and contributions as a state health official. She also received the Vision of Peace Award from the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence; the Health Professional of the Year award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness; the President’s Award from former Medical Society of Delaware presidents (three-time winner); and the Medal of Honor Award from atTAcK addiction. She also was honored by Gov. Carney as the longest-serving state health official in the nation.

She was named one of “Delaware’s Most Influential People" for 2020 and 2021. Dr. Rattay chairs the Healthy Babies Subcommittee for ASTHO and is a board member of ASTHO and the Public Health Foundation. She is the chair of Delaware’s Addiction Action Committee, co-chair of the Overdose System of Care Committee and a member and former president of the Delaware Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline.

Dr. Rattay earned a medical doctorate from the Medical University of Ohio in 1992 and a Master of Science in epidemiology from the University of Maryland in 2001. She completed her pediatric residency at Georgetown University and a Preventive Medicine and Public Health Residency Program at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Rattay is board-certified in pediatrics and practiced in that field for 14 years. Between September 2001 and June 2004, she served as a senior public health adviser to the U.S. surgeon general and assistant secretary of health in the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, where she had a leadership role in the President’s HealthierUS Initiative.