Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a new UF professor, as Florida’s next surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Health on Tuesday.
Ladapo works as a health policy researcher, focusing on clinical trial interventions and reducing the population burden of cardiovascular disease. He received professorship at UF this week after leaving UCLA.
According to UF, Ladapo will spend most of his time on an independent research program in internal medicine and health policy, while also portioning some time to clinical teaching responsibilities.
“He has had both a remarkable academic and medical career with a strong emphasis in health policy research,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Dr. Ladapo will bring great leadership to the Department of Health.”
DeSantis also thanked Scott Rivkees, another UF employee, and Shamarial Roberson for their work in the roles as surgeon general and deputy secretary for health, respectively.
Before UF, Ladapo served as a faculty member at New York University’s School of Medicine and a staff fellow at the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Most recently, he was an associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
In a statement Ladapo said serving the people of Florida would be a privilege that he is honored to fulfill.
“We must make health policy decisions rooted in data and not in fear,” Ladapo said. “From California, I have observed the different approaches taken by governors across the country and I have been impressed by Governor DeSantis’ leadership and determination to ensure that Floridians are afforded all opportunities to maintain their health and wellness, while preserving their freedoms as Americans.”
A host of organizations, including the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, have funded Ladapo’s research into bettering the health of people evaluated for coronary artery disease.
He won the Daniel Ford Award in 2010 for health services and outcomes research. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, publishing an opinion piece last year about the efficacy of masking during the pandemic.
Born in Nigeria, Ladapo and his family immigrated to America when he was 5 years old. He earned his undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University, where he served as captain of the varsity track and field team. Ladapo earned his Ph.D. in health policy and M.D. from Harvard University.
Some Democrats blasted the appointment.
“Appointing Dr. Joseph Ladapo—an anti-masker and vaccine skeptic—as surgeon general is a complete slap in the face to the families of the more than 50,000 Floridians who have died from COVID,” tweeted Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Florida governor who is running against DeSantis in 2022. “When I’m governor, I promise to appoint a surgeon general who is an experienced medical doctor that believes in science, not conspiracy theories.”
The appointment comes as the governor’s office is involved in lawsuits over masks in schools and vaccine mandates, plus a spat with the Biden administration over distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments.