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R.I.’s new interim health director won’t say if he’ll stay on permanently

Dr. James McDonald, the health department’s medical director, will take over for Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, who announced her resignation earlier this month

RI Dept of Health's Dr. James McDonald gestures during a press conference in 2020.Kris Craig/The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — Governor Dan McKee tapped Dr. James McDonald to serve as the interim director of the state health department Thursday.

McDonald, the health department’s medical director and the chief administrative officer for the state’s Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline since 2012, will take over Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, who announced her resignation earlier this month.

McDonald will oversee day-to-day operations of the state agency as the governor searches for a replacement. But McDonald on Thursday would not say if he would stay on the job permanently if he was offered the position.

“I just want to help the governor right now,” he told members of the press during a news conference. “Can I just leave it at that for now?”


Alexander-Scott, who was also an appointee of former governor Gina Raimondo, had led the department since 2015. When her resignation letter was accepted by McKee, she was in the middle of her second Senate-confirmed five-year term, which was to run through 2025.

She did not say what her next steps would be, but she will work as a consultant for the health department for $46,000-a-month for three months.

Tom McCarthy, the department’s deputy director, stepped down from the department last week.

McCarthy told the Globe that it was his decision to leave, and that he would be taking the month of February off. In March, he will start a new position at United Us, a technology company that builds coordinated care networks of health and social service providers.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.