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Buehler Health Commissioner

June 27, 2014

James Buehler, MD
James W. Buehler, MD, professor in the Drexel University School of Public Health

In an announcement of multiple changes in his senior administration today, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter has appointed James Buehler, MD, a professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy in the Drexel University School of Public Health, as the city’s new Health Commissioner.  Buehler has more than 30 years of public health experience having served as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, senior scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and public health professor at Drexel University and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. A graduate of the University of California at Berkley and the School of Medicine of the University of California, Buehler is certified by the American Boards of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine.

“I would like to thank Mayor Nutter for the opportunity to serve the City of Philadelphia as its next Health Commissioner. Although I’m a newcomer to Philadelphia, having lived here for just a year, I’ve come to love this city and admire and respect the achievements of its Department of Public Health,” said Buehler.  “The Department has demonstrated its ability to be innovative and effective in many areas, taking on the most challenging public health problems of our time, like preventing chronic diseases by making it easier for Philadelphians to choose healthy lifestyles, improving the health of mothers and children and preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Going forward, I promise that I will come to work with one goal in mind: to do what I can to protect and promote the health of every person who lives in or visits our City.”

Mayor Nutter announced the departure of three senior staff members: Donald Schwarz, MD, Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity and Health Commissioner; Anne Marie Ambrose, Department of Human Services Commissioner; and Suzanne Biemiller, First Deputy Chief of Staff. 

“These three individuals are some of the most highly respected, trusted, impressive public servants that I have ever had the opportunity to work with,” said Mayor Nutter.  “Individually and collectively, Dr. Schwarz, Commissioner Ambrose and Suzanne Biemiller have served the citizens of our great City with the highest levels of commitment, innovation and humanity in improving the lives of children and adults all across our great City.  It is with a great sadness for their departures that I wish them well in their next endeavor.” 

Schwarz was appointed Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity and Health Commissioner in January 2008.  Prior to entering government service, Schwarz served as Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and Deputy Physician-in-Chief and Craig-Dalsimer Division Chair for Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  He has more than 22 years experience in adolescent risk factor research.  He will be leaving the Administration on July 15 to join the nation’s largest philanthropic organization dedicated to health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as the Demand Portfolio Team Director.

“Since accepting Mayor Nutter’s call to public service in 2008, I have been honored to serve all Philadelphians,” said Schwarz.  “It is gratifying to see the progress that a city can make, even in the face of economic recession, in improving the health and welfare of its residents when we all work together for the common good.”                                        

Under his leadership as Deputy Mayor, Philadelphia has experienced a more than 50 percent increase in permanent housing for homeless individuals and families, a 24 percent reduction in the rate of dependent children removed from their families and a substantial improvement in the access to the behavioral health system, including independent, community-based living placements for individuals with serious mental illness.

As Health Commissioner, Schwarz has implemented successful smoking cessation and anti-obesity programs, leading to a five percent reduction in the City’s childhood obesity rate, the City’s first drop in the adult obesity rate in more than a decade and a 15 percent decline in the adult smoking rate.  Additionally, Schwarz was integral to establishing the public-private partnership to construct a new, $42 million health center complex in South Philadelphia.

Susan Kretsge, a graduate of Temple University with 39 years of experience working in City government, will replace Schwarz as Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity.  Previously, Kretsge worked in the Fire Department, Health Department, Office of Human Resources and the Managing Director’s Office.  Since 2008, she has served as the Chief of Staff for the Office of Health and Opportunity.

“I appreciate Mayor Nutter affording me the opportunity to lead the work of the Office of Health and Opportunity,” said Kretsge.  “Over the last six years, staff in these departments has improved the health of Philadelphians and child safety and offered a life off the street for hundreds of formerly homeless individuals.  I have worked closely with our departments on this work and I look forward to continuing these efforts in my new role.”

For more information about the changes announced by Mayor Nutter today, see the City of Philadelphia’s full press release.

Note to news media: For inquiries about Dr. Buehler and his appointment as City Health Commissioner, contact Mark McDonald, Press Secretary, 215-686-6210 (office) or 267-303-9248 (cell). For all other inquiries about the Drexel University School of Public Health, contact Rachel Ewing.