Baton Rouge – LDH Secretary Alan Levine announced today the appointment of M. Rony Francois, M.D. as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health – Office of Public Health.  Francois previously has served as the Secretary of Health for the State of Florida, one of the largest public health agencies in the United States. 

Francois has an extensive educational foundation in public health. He has undergraduate degrees in Physical Education and Biology and has earned master’s degrees in Exercise Physiology and Public Health. In addition, Francois received his doctorate in Environmental Toxicology/Public Health at the University of South Florida, where he also graduated from medical school.

“Dr. Francois brings a wealth of public health knowledge and expertise to Louisiana, where he will be a great asset to the Department of Health and Hospitals,” said Secretary Levine.  “We will be relying on him as we seek to improve prevention methods and make strides toward improving our public health outcomes.”

Dr. Francois will oversee the daily functions of DHH’s Office of Public Health.  He will be working closely with programs such as infectious disease reporting, maternal and child health, food, dairy and drug safety, health safety inspections, immunizations, vital records and statistics, access to primary and rural health care, obesity and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and the HIV/AIDS program, as well as a multitude of other programs and services.  He will also be responsible for managing the office’s $330 million annual budget and other administrative duties.

Francois, who served as a Presidential delegate to the swearing in of the President of Haiti as well as serving on public health delegations to the Bahamas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, will begin his appointment by the middle of March. 

“Dr. Francois is one of the best public health experts in the United States,” said Secretary Levine.  “His depth of knowledge and ability to solve problems will be an asset to Louisiana.  We are fortunate he was willing to continue his public service here.”

Francois comes to the department from Tampa, Florida, where he served as an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida’s Colleges of Medicine and Public Health.  From 2005 to 2007, he served as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee.  Francois also spent two years as a professional soccer player with the Orlando Lions. He and his wife, Joelle, have three children, Rony, Patrick and Joelle Anne.

Secretary Levine also thanked outgoing Assistant Secretary Sharon Howard for her dedication and commitment to the Office of Public Health.  “Sharon has provided stable and effective leadership to the office for the past five years. Her commitment, especially during and following Hurricane Katrina, allowed the agency to continue to meet the public health needs of Louisiana citizens at that most crucial juncture.  She will continue to be a critical member of our team, and we are so proud to have her.”