Paula Nickelson is the acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS). She was appointed to the position by Governor Mike Parson after her original election was overturned by conservative legislators and Missourians who opposed the mandates. Nickelson has been a part of the MDHSS for more than 22 years and has been actively involved in the state's response to the pandemic. As the head of MDHSS, Nickelson is responsible for overseeing and administering the department, as well as its programs and services that protect the health and safety of Missourians.
Her priorities in this new position include addressing workforce issues, updating data and surveillance systems, and focusing on health equity. She also works with local public health departments, hospitals, other healthcare organizations, local government, first aid agencies, and other partners to ensure that systems are in place to protect the health of Missourians during a public health emergency. The Environmental Public Health Section of MDHSS is dedicated to promoting, protecting, and collaborating for health by providing quality public health laboratory services. This includes laboratory testing to detect infectious diseases, genetic disorders, and environmental problems.
The section also works to prevent and control cancer and chronic diseases, which are the leading causes of death in Missouri. The Center for Local Public Health Services works to strengthen Missouri's public health system, which is comprised of 114 local public health agencies. The Division of Community and Public Health is responsible for supporting and operating more than 100 programs and initiatives that address public health issues. This includes the management of chronic diseases, genetic health conditions, cancer, pregnancy, vital statistics, and access to healthcare. The Missouri Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (Flex) uses a contractor to provide technical assistance for the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project (MBQIP). This includes webinars, conference calls, site visits, in-person training, regional training, annual state training, and three regional rural health meetings that are held virtually in spring and fall. Nickelson is committed to ensuring that MDHSS provides quality services that protect the health and safety of all Missourians.
Through her leadership and dedication to public health initiatives, she is working to make sure that everyone in the state has access to quality healthcare.