Dr. Stephen C. Eliason
New health officer sees job as civic duty
Dearborn County has a new health officer for the first time in 25 years.
Dr. Stephen C. Eliason was appointed the interim health officer by the county Board of Health on Thursday, May 28. He takes over for Dr. Gary Scudder, who has been the county’s health officer since 1995.
Health board chairman Michael K. Hankins said Scudder and the county “entered into an agreement to separate his relationship with the county” as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 30.
Eliason, who has been a member of the board of health for about 10 years, agreed to take on the role, which Hankins said should last no more than 30 days. But both Hankins and Eliason left clues that Eliason may apply for the full-time job.
“I feel that if the community wants me to do it, I feel that it’s my civic duty or responsibility to step up and serve the community,” Eliason said.
“This has been a great place to live, and I think the community deserves a good functioning health board and hopefully I can be part of that.” He tendered his resignation from the board at the same meeting.
Eliason, a pathologist, grew up in California and attended St. Louis University School of Medicine, where he did his residency. He was a member of the U.S. Air Force, and moved to this area in 2003.
Until a year ago, he was on staff at Highpoint Health, but now is working at several locations in the Tri-State.
He describes a pathologist’s work as “a lot of it is biopsy, interpretation, autopsies, and also clinical laboratory work.”
According to the Dearborn County website, the health officer is “responsible for the protection of the health of the citizens within Dearborn County and is the designated officer, under the laws of the state of Indiana, that governs the organization and operation of the local health department. Enforces all applicable public health laws, ordinances and regulations relating to the position; providing public health guidance to the various divisions of the department.”
The health department handles all vital records, including birth and death certificates, for the county.
Eliason also will be in charge of helping provide guidance on public health issues.
“If a school needs to be closed, you’re probably going to get consulted on that,” he said. “If restaurants need to be inspected, you get consulted on that. There’s a lot of sewage problems in the county. So you’re basically a consultant for all of these public health problems.
“A a big part of your job is to provide advice and opinions on these things. And then I think there’s also a lot of paperwork, forms too. And I also think that the employees in the health board need leadership.”
He is stepping into a job that he is not all that familiar with.
“They need somebody to keep the ball rolling on public records, vital records, birth certificates, death certificates, and then I’ll have to see what else is involved,” he said.
“But it could be a time for me to figure out if I can be effective in a permanent position. Or another person would be better qualified for that.”
Hankins said an advertisement for a new health officer ha been out and he has a “couple of resumes” already.
Eliason’s resignation from the board means the county is looking for another board member.