Henrico, Richmond unify leadership of local health districts

Officials from the City of Richmond, Henrico County and the Virginia Department of Health joined public-health workers and members of the community at St. Luke Apartments today to announce the unification of the leadership of the two local health districts under the direction of Dr. Danny Avula.

The Virginia Department of Health recently appointed Avula into a dual health director role, which is a model for regional public-health collaboration. It is the first appointment of this kind in VDH’s Central Region.

The appointment creates a joint executive public-health leadership team for Richmond and Henrico. The two health districts will continue to maintain separate staffs and operations.

City and county officials applauded the opportunity to expand regional cooperation to protect the health of the neighboring populations and to improve implementation of public health services.

“We need strategic partnerships and closer collaborations to move our region forward,” Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney said. “We can measure our success as a region in many ways, but the health and wellbeing of our citizens are central. Dr. Avula is widely recognized for his vision and innovation in public health.”

Henrico Board of Supervisors Chairman Frank J. Thornton added, “Good public health practices, policies and ideas should be able to travel easily between Richmond and Henrico. The county is excited about this partnership and the ways it can serve the residents of both localities.”

Avula joined the Richmond City Health District as deputy director in 2009 and became director in 2016. He began serving in an additional capacity as acting health director for Henrico in 2017. Following discussions between VDH and officials from both localities earlier this summer, Avula agreed to accept the offer of uniting both health departments under his leadership.

Avula is a graduate of the University of Virginia who attended the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. He completed residencies at VCU and Johns Hopkins University, where he also received a master’s degree in public health. He is a board-certified pediatrician and a physician specializing in preventive medicine.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to serve both of these fantastic organizations, and the visionary leaders at their helm,” Avula said. “So much of our work already has a regional footprint and, by focusing on the root causes of health and wellbeing, we can create opportunities for residents to take charge of their health and pursue full, thriving lives in Richmond and Henrico.

“We are grateful to our partners at VDH, Henrico County and the City of Richmond for coming together to make this partnership possible for our residents.”