Adair County's Dr. Gitanjali Pai has been named chief medical officer for the State of Oklahoma. Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, she has been an invaluable resource for the state and others.

The official start date was April 19, so she's already on the job.

The local physician is honored by the appointment.

“It is an honor to serve the State of Oklahoma as the chief medical officer and I’m grateful to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for giving me the opportunity to handle the responsibilities of this position. My sincere gratitude goes to all my training institutions and my mentors under whom I had the privilege of working,” said Pai.

She will be providing medical oversight of the Oklahoma State Department of Health operations and public health initiatives. The appointment is on a renewal basis. The assignment is determined by the Oklahoma Commissioner of Health.

From the beginning of this pandemic, Pai was involved in the Oklahoma Governor’s Solutions Task Force panel for COVID-19. She's also been a part of State Legislature briefings for COVID-19 as the COVID expert; and the Oklahoma State COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Advisory Council. She is the Infectious Disease expert for the Project ECHO COVID-19 service line for the State of Oklahoma and the ID expert for the Hepatitis C Project ECHO with Oklahoma State University, in collaboration with the Cherokee Nation, and the HIV ECHO with OSU."

Paid was involved with about 300 nursing homes across seven states regarding COVID-19 training, mentoring and guiding them through COVID policies.

“Through my prior experience and work with the state, my expertise was recognized by OSDH as a good fit for this position,” she said.

It is an opportunity to serve a larger community while still working from Stilwell.

“While this is a paid position, it’s more about the chance to serve the state and the opportunity to make a difference, and touch so many lives positively,” she said.

By any reckoning, the position of chief medical officer is an honor and a challenge, she said

“It is definitely an opportunity to touch many lives to the best of my abilities and expertise. I hope to make a difference, even in the most vulnerable subsets of the population of our state,” she said.

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of public health, Pai believes.

“I also would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues at Stilwell Memorial Hospital. The exemplary support I have been receiving from all the providers, nurses, administration and hospital and clinic staff has made my work a pleasure," she said. "This encouragement has helped me to experiment, innovate and ensure quality health care access for all in Stilwell and our surrounding communities, and take patient care to the next level."

She considers her current assignment just a scale up to the state level.

“I know this is easier said than done. But with the guidance of the leadership team at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, and mentoring by none other than the Commissioner of Health Col. Dr. Lance Frye, Deputy Commissioners Keith Reed and Travis Kirkpatrick,  and the support of the entire team – I look forward to working for the state," Paid said. "I am accepting this assignment in all humility and pray that I will continue to receive the cooperation of all my colleagues, and above all, Oklahomans at-large."