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RI HEALTH

R.I. appoints epidemiologist Dr. Utpala Bandy as interim state health director

Bandy currently serves as the director of the state health department’s Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Disease, and Emergency Medical Services. She has led the department’s infectious disease division since 2012

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Capitol Hill in Providence.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Dr. Utpala Bandy, an infectious disease epidemiologist, has been appointed as the new interim director of the state health department, according to the governor’s office.

Bandy, who helped lead the state through the pandemic, will begin her new role June 26, just three days before Dr. James McDonald, the outgoing interim state health director, leaves state service.

Bandy currently serves as the director of the state health department’s Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Disease, and Emergency Medical Services. She has led the department’s infectious disease division since 2012.

Bandy had helped guide the state’s response to the COVID-19 and H1N1 global pandemics and has led efforts to prevent or control outbreaks of “diseases of significant concern,” such as tuberculosis, measles, rabies, and meningococcal disease.

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Bandy, who joined the health department in 1993, previously helped guide efforts to dramatically reduce rates of new HIV infections over the last three decades.

“[Bandy] has been at the center of our state’s COVID-19 response and dozens of other major public health initiatives over the last three decades,” said Governor Dan McKee in a statement on Thursday. “In addition to her work in infectious disease, she has extensive knowledge of preventive services and health promotion.”

McDonald announced earlier this month that he would be leaving his post to move closer to family. In a letter to the governor, which was obtained by the Globe, McDonald wrote that his mother has Alzheimer’s and that his father, who is 91, is struggling to take care of her.

McDonald, who has worked at the health department for the last decade, was appointed interim director after Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the former director, stepped down in mid-January. He was the health department’s medical director and the chief administrative officer for the state’s Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline since 2012.

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Prior to joining the state, Bandy completed a pediatric residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She earned her master’s degree in public health from the Harvard University School of Public Health.

“Rhode Island has one of the best public health workforces in the country, thanks to the talented professionals at RIDOH and the community partnerships that we have developed over the years,” said Bandy in a statement.



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