Dr. Steve Davis, who has worked for decades to improve the health of Kentuckians, is stepping down as executive director of HealthFirst Bluegrass.
"Steve is what a physician ought to be," said Dr. Rice Leach, the Lexington-Fayette County health commissioner, who has known and worked with Davis for years.
Davis took over as HealthFirst's executive director in the fall of 2013. He replaced William North, who resigned after months of turmoil and stalemates involving the construction of an $11.7 million public health clinic.
In an email message to the staff, Davis cited health concerns as the reason for his departure. He plans to continue to serve on the HealthFirst board of directors.
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HealthFirst chief operating officer Brent Rafferty will be the interim director.
Construction on the Southland Drive public health clinic began last fall. The clinic is expected to open in October. Officials estimate that it will serve 30,000 people a year, including many low-income families. The clinic is financed by a federal grant awarded to Lexington in 2010.
During Davis' tenure, HealthFirst opened three other clinics in Lexington and operates clinics at seven Fayette County Public Schools.
Davis "has done an outstanding job of resurrecting HealthFirst from a situation that seemed unfixable," said Geoff Reed, Lexington's commissioner of general services and a former member of the HealthFirst board of directors. "He took a patient that was in critical condition and brought it back to life."
Davis' time at HealthFirst comes at the end of a long term in public health. Davis was interim public health commissioner in the state Cabinet for Health and Family services from 2011 to 2012. He was a longtime deputy commissioner.
As a state health official, Davis spearheaded important work in the care of children and mothers with at-risk pregnancies that decreased the rate of child neglect and child abuse, Leach said.
"Davis has taken his clinical training and experience and used it to make things better for thousands of people," Leach said.