Dr. Lauren Smith, appointed interim public health commissioner last fall after two scandals that rocked the agency, said Friday she will step down next month after finalizing Massachusetts’ first rules to regulate the use of medical marijuana.
Smith, who specializes in childhood health and had been the department’s medical director since 2007, wrote in an e-mail to staff members that the “last several months have been difficult” for the department and for “those of us that care deeply about this agency’s work in public health.”
Smith said her 5½ years at the department were among the most rewarding of her career, “even on the difficult days.”
The department has been under scrutiny since last fall’s deadly national meningitis outbreak linked to a Framingham pharmacy regulated by the agency and the mishandling of drug evidence by a chemist at the agency’s former drug lab, which has jeopardized thousands of criminal cases.
Smith’s predecessor, John Auerbach, who was appointed state health commissioner in 2007, resigned in September amid the widening drug lab investigation.
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