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For Release: March 17, 2009
Contact: Leslea Bennett-Webb
Office of Communications

Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Terry Cline

State Board of Health Announces New Health Commissioner

The Oklahoma State Board of Health announced today the selection of Terry L. Cline, Ph.D., as the new Commissioner of Health. He replaces Dr. Michael Crutcher, who retired Jan. 31. Cline will begin his new job in July.

An Oklahoma native, Cline is currently Health Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, where since last September he has advised the U.S. Ambassador, the Iraqi Minister of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on health-related challenges in Iraq. Prior to that position he served as Administrator for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

From 2001 to 2006, he was Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. He also served as Oklahoma’s Cabinet Secretary of Health from 2004 to 2006.

State Board of Health President Barry Smith said Cline was chosen following a national search process. “We are extremely pleased that Dr. Cline is returning to Oklahoma to lead the state’s public health agency,” Smith said. “His qualifications and leadership experience, combined with his record of building collaborative relationships, are an exciting trio of skills and abilities that will assist him in guiding Oklahoma toward becoming a healthier state.”

Smith said the Board of Health looked for a candidate who could serve as a strong change agent to re-examine and realign Oklahoma’s public health system infrastructure.

“The Board of Health believes Oklahoma’s health status is unacceptable. National health status reports continue to rate Oklahoma low in numerous health indicators. At the same time, we face possible state budget cuts that may impact the important public health services the Oklahoma State Department of Health provides to the citizens of Oklahoma,” Smith said. “These are enormous pressures for an incoming Commissioner of Health to confront, but we believe Dr. Cline has demonstrated an ability to face adverse conditions and overcome them.”

Smith said the Board of Health was particularly impressed that Cline’s Presidential appointments and position as Health Attaché in Iraq spanned the administrations for both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

“The Board was also mindful that Dr. Cline has led a complex federal agency, a state agency, and has grass roots experience in local public health as former chair of the governing board for the Cambridge (Massachusetts) Health Alliance,” Smith said. “He has ‘hands on’ understanding of the tiers of government and the roles they play in assuring a better quality of life for all citizens.”

Cline holds both a doctorate and Master of Science degrees in clinical psychology from Oklahoma State University.

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