BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, submitted her resignation, effective Thursday, April 6.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday in a news release that Stephen Russo will serve as the next leader of LDH. Russo is the director of legal, audit and regulatory affairs for the department. He has worked with LDH for 27 years and served as executive council since 2008.

“Secretary Phillips is one of the hardest working, most capable, and most accomplished people I’ve ever met. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her decisive and thoughtful leadership saved lives. She spearheaded our response as we established an unprecedented mass testing program and innovative vaccine rollout and distribution program. Remarkably, she didn’t let the response to the COVID-19 emergency stop LDH from making progress on other important initiatives, like our work to improve health equity, address maternal mortality, and expand access to critical health services. I have no doubt she will continue her dedication to service in this next chapter for her and her family.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards

Phillips took over LDH in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. She oversaw the agency through a national public health crisis and led during Hurricanes Laura and Ida.

Key projects under her guidance include:

  • Diversifying the Louisiana healthcare workforce
  • Giving adults with disabilities dental benefits
  • Adding about 46 weeks of postpartum Medicaid coverage, bringing the total to a full year
  • Boosting resources for preventative screenings/services
  • Improving the payment model for care providers including hospitals, dental and ambulance services

“I’m a big believer in public service, so the opportunity to return to my home state and give back in such a meaningful way at such a critical time is something that will stay with me for the rest of my career,” said Phillips in the news release. “There’s a great deal to be proud of as the head of LDH, but the intentional effort that went into equitably rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines and ultimately saving thousands of lives ranks among my top accomplishments.”