Claude A. Jacob, who previously served as the chief public health officer at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts, was appointed director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, City Manager Erik Walsh announced Friday.

The announcement comes after several changes in leadership in the department since Dawn Emerick abruptly resigned from the position last summer, four months into the coronavirus pandemic.

Jacob’s first day as director is July 6, 2021. 

“As we have seen over the past year, public health plays a critical role in the day to day lives of every person,” Jacob said. “San Antonio has a wealth of public health programs, innovative approaches and services available to its residents. I look forward to strengthening and expanding those services in order to address the conditions where all can be healthy in San Antonio.”

Family Service President and CEO Mary Garr has served as interim director since early January. The lead role of the department was essentially split between Garr, who ran the day-to-day operations, and Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger, who oversaw the City’s COVID-19 health response – a role she will continue to fill. Previously, Bridger’s responsibilities were split with Dr. Sandra Guerra, who served as interim deputy public health director before stepping down to a part-time role in the department.

“I am excited to welcome Claude to San Antonio to serve as the new Director of Metro Health,” Walsh said in a news release. “I am confident that Claude will provide excellent leadership to Metro Health. He will continue to work to promote health equity and education for our residents.”

While at the Cambridge Health Alliance Jacob “was responsible for the implementation of innovative programming, attaining national public health accreditation for the Cambridge Public Health Department and mobilizing the COVID-19 emergency response efforts and critical partnerships to cover a population of 118,000 residents in the City of Cambridge,” the news release states.

He previously served as chief for the Bureau of Disease Prevention & Control at the Baltimore City Health Department and director of Community Affairs for the Sinai Community Institute affiliated with the Sinai Health System in Chicago.

Jacob, currently a doctoral candidate in health leadership from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and a bachelor’s in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Claude brings such a great combination of people skills, innovation, cutting edge public health science and community engagement to this role,” Bridger told the San Antonio Report. “We are very fortunate he has decided to come take the helm of Metro Health. I believe the next 10 years will be the decade of public health and we are in the best possible hands with Claude.”

Bridger originally planned on stepping down as assistant city manager to start her own consulting business last year but has repeatedly delayed her resignation. Once the pandemic stops “throwing us so many curveballs … I can put together a solid timeline,” she said.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org