Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann announced Thursday that she will retire Feb. 2 after 30 years at the department. She had been eligible to retire two years ago but stayed on to help with the state’s response to the COIVID-19 pandemic.
Emily Emerson, the current assistant director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division, will assume the role of interim director. MDH will launch a national search for a new director, the department said in a statement.
Ehresmann had become a fixture at the state’s daily media briefings regarding the pandemic alongside Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and health commissioner Jan Malcolm.
A statement from the health department said she played leading roles in many public health issues in recent decades, including Minnesota’s measles outbreak in 2017 – the largest measles outbreak in the United States that year – Ebola preparedness in 2014, the fungal meningitis investigation and response of 2012, H1N1 pandemic response in 2009, post-9/11 readiness work in the early 2000s, and dozens of other high-profile public health issues.
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan described Ehresmann as an “extraordinary public servant” that was key in helping the state navigate the pandemic.
Ehresmann at one time served on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), becoming only the second nurse to ever be named to the panel.
“Kris Ehresmann is a true leader, and her experience and skill as a top public health adviser has been instrumental in leading Minnesota through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Walz said in a statement. “It has been an honor to work alongside Kris. Her efforts to keep Minnesotans safe and healthy have left a legacy that will impact our state for years to come.”
“Kris’s expertise and ability to communicate complicated public health messages with clarity and compassion has made her an invaluable gift to the residents of Minnesota,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and a former state epidemiologist at MDH. “She will be truly missed.”