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Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ezike is stepping down

(Mike Miletich)
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 2:53 PM CST
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CHICAGO, Ill. (KWQC) - Dr. Ngozi Ezike is stepping down as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday.

“Dr. Ngozi Ezike has led the Illinois Department of Public Health for over three years, her tenure defined not only by her ability to provide the latest expertise and data, but also her empathy and compassion – becoming a beacon of stability for millions during a time of tremendous uncertainty,” the governor said.

She is leaving the agency after three years of service, most of it during the COVID-19 health crisis, Pritzker said.

To celebrate Ezike’s service, the governor issued a proclamation establishing March 1 as #DrEzikeDay. Amaal Tokars, who is currently the assistant director of IDPH, will serve as interim director while a nationwide search is conducted to find a permanent replacement. Ezike’s last day will be March 14.

“She will go down in the Illinois history books as a woman who saved lives and changed our state for the better,” Pritzker added.

Governor Pritzker’s full remarks congratulating Dr. Ezike, as prepared for delivery, can be found below:

For over three years, Dr. Ngozi Ezike has served as head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. With all her being, she has dedicated each day — and I mean EVERY day — to the agency’s mission to protect the health and wellness of the people in Illinois. For much of the last two years, she’s dedicated each night, too.

Even with this unprecedented internal workload, Dr. Ezike prioritized joining me at more than 160 COVID press conferences, providing not only the latest expertise and data, but also her empathy and compassion – becoming a beacon of stability for millions during a time of tremendous uncertainty. And she has been doing so in both English and Spanish. She has an unshakeable faith in G-d, and she has leaned on her faith to give her the strength to care for the world.

I have watched Dr. Ezike mourn the loss of every one of the 32,000 Illinoisans who have died from COVID-19. This pandemic is a collective trauma that has, for many, numbed their ability to comprehend death on a massive scale. Not Dr. Ezike. No number of sleepless nights and endless days could wear down her commitment to think first and foremost of Illinois’ most vulnerable.

I ran for office. Dr. Ezike did not. But throughout this crisis, she has been beside me every step of the way. I don’t put it lightly when I say she has had one of the hardest jobs in the world. There is something particularly heroic about the service of an extraordinary individual who did not seek greatness but found it anyway.

Dr. Ezike’s last day leading our Department of Public Health will be March 14th. It is a change I am loathe to accept, but perhaps she can finally get a good night’s sleep and precious time with her husband and their four kids. It is well deserved.

I have utmost faith that Dr. Ezike’s next journey will also bring more good to the world – as has been the hallmark of every step of her career. She will go down in the Illinois history books as a woman who changed our state for the better. She saved lives, many thousands of lives.

On that note, I have issued a proclamation declaring today, Tuesday, March 1st, to be Dr. Ezike Day in the State of Illinois. I ask all our residents to take a moment today or any day in the future to thank her for her unprecedented public service in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Ezike has big shoes to fill, and I’m pleased to announce that one of her top deputies –Amaal Tokaars, who has joined us at COVID-19 updates in the past – will be leading IDPH in the interim as we look for a permanent successor. Amaal Tokaars has been an instrumental senior member of Dr. Ezike’s leadership team, and the people of Illinois will be lucky to have her watching out for them.

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