Brandon Johnson Fires Chicago Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady

Dr. Allison Arwady appears on "Chicago Tonight" on March 20, 2023. (WTTW News)Dr. Allison Arwady appears on "Chicago Tonight" on March 20, 2023. (WTTW News)

Mayor Brandon Johnson has fired Dr. Allison Arwady as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

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Arwady was informed of the decision shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The move came a day after the Chicago Board of Health voted to send a letter to Johnson asking him to keep Arwady in her post, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In a statement posted on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, Arwady said public health remains her passion and that her top priority has always been to protect the health of all Chicagoans.

“It has been the best chapter of my life (so far!) leading the CDPH team, especially through the COVID pandemic, when public health was needed more than ever. Public health must always be driven by science and medicine, and never politics,” Arwady wrote. “It is critical that this work receives the funding needed to remain strong, and that the next CDPH Commissioner shares this department’s commitment to health equity.”

Arwady said she has every confidence in the CDPH team and “was especially disappointed not to get a chance to say goodbye.”

Johnson during his campaign for mayor vowed to fire Arwady, who was appointed by his predecessor, former Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Arwady was the public face of Chicago’s response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the outbreak of monkeypox. At the height of the pandemic, Arwady hosted online question-and-answer sessions twice a week and frequently briefed the news media alongside Lightfoot.

Arwady in 2019 saw her confirmation as commissioner delayed by several months after she fully backed Lightfoot’s decision not to reopen the city’s publicly run mental health clinics closed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Johnson told WTTW News he is committed to reopening those clinics.

Lightfoot in a statement Friday called Arwady “a hero.”

“We all owe a debt to her unflagging commitment to data, science and keeping us all safe through one of the worst pandemics that the world has ever seen,” Lightfoot wrote.

Prior to her time at CDPH, Arwady worked as an epidemic intelligence service officer for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she focused on outbreak response, including international work on Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. While based at the Illinois Department of Public Health, she responded to disease outbreaks across the state. 

Arwady earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and master’s degree in public health from Columbia University. She completed medical school and clinical training at Yale University. Arwady is a board-certified internal medicine physician and pediatrician.

Heather Cherone and Kristen Thometz contributed to this report.

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