Dr. Joe Thompson, who has served as Chief Health Officer and Surgeon General to Governors Huckabee and Beebe, will not remain as Surgeon General in the Asa Hutchinson gubernatorial administration.
Thompson will remain in his position as director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI), a health policy center that focuses on health data and research. According to the ACHI website, it was formed in 1998 to serve as a nonpartisan group to work on health policy, access to quality care, and health care financing.
The surgeon general’s position is codified as a cabinet-level advisor to the governor, but is not a full-time paid post. Thompson has been deeply involved in crafting aspects of the Private Option and the Payment Reform Initiative, among other health care-related programs that the state has embarked upon in recent years.
Thompson confirmed the details of this news and issued the following statement:
As Arkansas’s first Surgeon General, I have had the honor of serving at the request of both Governors Beebe and Huckabee. I had intended to submit my letter of resignation to Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson on January 13, 2014—just as I did when Mike Beebe took office as Governor in 2007. In the meantime, I recently received a call from Governor-elect Hutchinson, advising me that he will be making changes to the Surgeon General role and does not intend to appoint me to the position.
I am proud of the accomplishments we have made in our state over the past decade that I have served as Surgeon General. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement and stakeholders across the state have achieved several major health policy initiatives targeting tobacco cessation, obesity prevention, fluoridation, injury prevention, trauma system development, expanded use of health information technology and finally, payment reform and health coverage expansion.
The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement has a long history as a trusted advisor, providing bipartisan, evidence-based solutions for improving the health, quality of life and productivity of Arkansans. While there is considerable political change now taking place in our state, I remain committed to improving the health of Arkansans. As the Director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, I will continue to advocate for strategies that address the health needs of all Arkansans and extend our support to the next administration.