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Kismet Baldwin-Santana Debuts as San Mateo County's New Health Officer

Kismet Baldwin-Santana
Dr. Kismet Baldwin-Santana, San Mateo County Executive Office

Dr. Kismet Baldwin-Santana has become the new health officer for the San Mateo County, after she began her term as an official this week, and that her vision includes addressing the opioid epidemic, improving disaster preparedness and expanding health equity.

Baldwin-Santana came to public attention during the COVID-19 pandemic and is the first woman to hold the position in County history. He succeeds Dr. Scott Morrow, who retired after 31 years of service.

"The role of the health officer is a unique challenge," said Dave Pine, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "While the pandemic has put health officers in the spotlight, the day-to-day work involves improving the overall health of our entire community."

Pine noted that Baldwin-Santana is uniquely positioned to guide the county as it continues to shape a public health system that will help San Mateo County residents live longer and better lives.

Appointed by the Board of Supervisors, the selection places Baldwin-Santana in a role with broad authority under California law to prevent disease and the authority to issue health orders. The health officer serves as the primary spokesperson and trusted voice during outbreaks or emergencies.

However, most of the daily work involves developing public health policy, working with community organizations, and advising elected officials on public health strategies.

Baldwin-Santana has been an Assistant Health Officer for Sonoma County, a Health Officer for San Joaquin County, and a Quarantine Medical Officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, she has been deeply involved in public health work since earning her BS in microbiology and MD from The Ohio State University. He did postdoctoral work at UCLA, where he studied ways to reduce the incidence of sickle cell disease.

Early in her career as a neonatologist in New Hampshire, Baldwin-Santana developed treatment plans and managed the care of newborns experiencing neonatal withdrawal syndrome due to opioid exposure in utero.

The babies often suffered from tremors, poor feeding reflexes, and irritability. In some cases, he found that mothers who had developed an addiction to painkillers often escalated to heroin and other street drugs during their pregnancies.

It partnered with obstetricians and gynecologists who work in methadone clinics to help mothers participate in treatment programs. Such firsthand experiences helped shape his career.

“I really enjoyed that job,” he said in his first interview as San Mateo County Health Officer. "It allowed me to see the bottom-up aspect of medicine, addressing the causes of the problems my patients face."

Such work brought her into the broader field of public health. He has worked with coalitions involving law enforcement, schools, substance use disorder treatment providers, general health care providers, emergency medical services, and other key stakeholders to address opioid overdoses and deaths.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, he served as the quarantine medical officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at San Francisco International Airport. Oversaw entry screening procedures and assessed traveler disease exposure, working with local health care providers and agencies, including the San Mateo County Health Department, to prevent further spread.

You may be interested in: August will be Child Support Awareness month in San Mateo County

Pamela Cruz
Pamela Cruz
Editor-in-Chief of Peninsula 360 Press. A communicologist by profession, but a journalist and writer by conviction, with more than 10 years of media experience. Specialized in medical and scientific journalism at Harvard and winner of the International Visitors Leadership Program scholarship from the U.S. government.

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