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Dade Selects New Health Director From Within


July 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
The San Juan Star. All rights reserved. 

Lillian Rivera, a registered nurse who set her sights on becoming the head of a major urban public health department, has gotten her wish.

Rivera, 49, was named Miami-Dade County's top public health administrator on Friday.

''I love this community and I really want to have the best health department in the nation,'' Rivera said in a telephone interview Friday, her first day in the state-appointed position.

A 27-year healthcare veteran who has worked in the Miami-Dade Health Department the past 13 years, Rivera will oversee a $61 million budget and more than 1,000 employees. She will be responsible for issues from HIV/AIDS testing and prevention to childhood vaccinations and SARS and West Nile virus surveillance in the state's largest county.

Rivera called HIV/AIDS one of the top issues facing the county. Miami ranks second in the nation among major U.S. cities for new HIV infections.

Other key issues, she noted: access to healthcare for the county's uninsured or uninsurable, disparities in care and tackling chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and obesity.

''We have to look at healthy lifestyles,'' she said. ``We have to make sure that we reduce our stress, that we eat well, that we sleep well . . . so our quality of life will be better.''

Rivera replaces Dr. James J. James, who left in January to become director of the American Medical Association's newly formed Center for Disaster Medicine and Emergency Response. James held the position from 2000 to 2002.

Nancy Humbert, a registered nurse and deputy administrator, has been the interim county health director since James' departure.

''Lillian is a wonderful addition to the leadership team,'' state Health Director Dr. John Agwunobi said in a written statement.

Rivera is a native New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn and received both her bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing from the University of Puerto Rico.

Rivera and husband, Jose Marquez, an environmental health supervisor for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, live in South Miami-Dade. They have three children, ages 25, 18 and 16.

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