Chesterton Tribune

Longtime Porter County health officer Dr. Gary Babcoke retires after 33 years

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

At a Porter County Board of Health meeting this week, Porter County Health Officer Dr. Gary Babcoke informed the board his intention to retire from the position effective June 30.

“It has been a distinct honor to serve the citizens of Porter County as their health officer for the past thirty-three years. I have been privileged to work with dedicated health board members and extraordinary talented and committed health department staff,” said Dr. Babcoke in a statement released Thursday.

While serving as health officer, Babcoke held a practice with the Westchester Medical Group in Chesterton as a family practitioner.

Babcoke said he has seen significant changes since replacing the county’s first health officer, Dr. Eugene DeGrazia, in 1978.

Some of those changes and accomplishments include: computerization of health department, upgraded professional health staff qualifications including separate food service and environmental oversight, implementation of tuberculosis testing program and clinic, initiating HIV/STD testing and counseling and treatment program, creation of pregnancy testing and the prenatal care program, initiation of child lead screening and treatment program, creation of countywide HAZMAT team and first environmental coordinator position, starting a water sampling program at public beaches and landfills, expansion of child immunization program to include adult and travelers and provided 50,000 immunizations in 2010, and encouraged cooperation with the county plan commission in integrating health department building lot approvals.

Many of these changes and programs in the county were among the first in the state.

Babcoke also assisted in opening of the Portage Health Department Office and the startup of Hilltop and North Shore Medical Clinics.

“It has been my privilege to oversee the health department adjustments to those changes and public health challenges. As I retire from the Health Officer position, I am confident that the health department staff is well positioned to meet the public health challenges of the future,” said Babcoke.

While practicing medicine, Babcoke served as a colonel in the U.S. Army and was part of the Indiana National Guard for 27 years beginning in 1978.

Earning his medical degree in 1961, he first began practicing medicine in Gary in 1963 and made the move to Porter County about ten years later. He was initially appointed to the county board of health in 1976 and has been actively involved in the Indiana Association of Public Health Positions.

Current members of the health board said Babcoke has had great availability and always found him reachable whenever they needed his opinion or advice.

Babcoke told the board he has seen a mix of good things and bad things throughout his tenure and thanked the support given to him by the health board, the county commissioners, and the county council.

“It’s so prideful to be part of this process,” Babcoke said to the board on Tuesday.

Health Board Chairman Martin Moeller said the department has achieved preeminent status and is highly regarded and respected throughout Indiana.

“Dr. Babcoke has lead by example and has built a professional staff steadfast in its commitment to preserving highest public health standards. As only the second Porter County Health Officer, it is hard to think of the department under anyone else’s leadership,” said Moeller in a statement.

“I know that all the citizens of Porter County join me in expressing our sincere gratitude and appreciation for his years of dedicated public service.”

Babcoke told the Chesterton Tribune he is sincerely looking forward to his retirement but will continue to work part time in Urgent Care.

Health Board Seeking Successor

The health board is now soliciting résumés from qualified individuals interested in serving as the Porter County Health Officer. Résumés should be directed to Board of Health Chairman Martin Moeller in care of the Porter County Health Department, 155 Indiana Avenue, Suite 104, Valparaiso, IN, 46383. Résumés will be accepted through Feb. 28

The health board intends to hire a new health officer at its meeting scheduled for May 3.

The successful candidate would start employment as of June 1, allowing a thirty day overlap prior to Dr. Babcoke’s retirement on June 30. The candidate will then assume the duties as county health officer on July 1.

 

 

 

Posted 1/7/2011