Governor Hutchinson Announces Dr. Nate Smith Moving to CDC, Appoints Dr. Jose Romero As Interim Health Secretary

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith has accepted a position with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced today at his daily COVID-19 update news conference.

The Governor has appointed Dr. Jose Romero, chief medical officer at the Arkansas Department of Health and chief of the pediatric infectious disease section at Arkansas Children’s, as interim Secretary of Health.

“Dr. Smith literally has stood by my side nearly every day since March 11, when I declared that COVID-19 was a health emergency for Arkansas,” Governor Hutchinson said. “We have spent uncounted hours communicating in every way possible – in person, by telephone and text, and by email. His counsel has guided and informed every decision I have made as we have navigated this public health crisis.

“He educated me, counseled me, challenged me, and supported me. His access to national experts on infectious disease allowed us to quickly gather information and respond rapidly as our situation changed, sometimes by the hour.

“Secretary Smith’s selection to serve at the national level affirms what we already knew, that with him at the helm, we were in good hands. To say that I am saddened doesn’t begin to describe my feelings, but I am thrilled that our nation now will have the benefit of his expertise, wisdom, and compassion.

“For all the work he has done during his years in Arkansas, and especially over the past four months, his compassion for the people of Arkansas is what I will remember most about Dr. Smith’s service to our state.”

Dr. Smith, who will become the Deputy Director for Public Health Service and Implementation Science at CDC, will remain as Arkansas Secretary of Health through August 28, 2020.

“I have learned an incredible amount from my colleagues here,” Dr. Smith said. “I am honored to take this role at CDC, but it is not easy to leave ADH or this wonderful state. It has been a privilege to serve as Secretary of Health. I plan to take everything I’ve learned through my experiences here to my role at CDC.”   

Dr. Romero has been at Arkansas Children’s since 2008, and he has been the Arkansas Department of Health’s chief medical officer since April of this year. Dr. Romero also serves as the chair of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices with the CDC. The Governor recently appointed him to serve on the medical advisory panel he created to guide the state during the pandemic.

“Dr. Romero has been involved in the COVID-19 fight since the first day, and his move to Interim Secretary of Health will allow a seamless transition that will ensure we continue to successfully mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and cautiously lift restrictions throughout Arkansas,” Governor Hutchinson said. “Dr. Romero’s international perspective and relationships have been invaluable in our fight against this pandemic.”

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