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Please don’t politicize the District Board of Health (opinion)


Submitted by Dr. Reka Danko

The first meeting after I was appointed to the Washoe County District Board of Health (DBOH), I looked at the members of the board with such pride. I saw champions from our community with a diversity of life experiences, perspectives, and expertise all coming together to promote health for individuals and our community. 

I feel honored to be a part of this health board, which consists of seven individuals total: two representatives each from Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County, plus one physician licensed to practice medicine in Nevada. 

The pandemic has brought much-needed attention to public health. Unfortunately, there have been calls to change the composition of the DBOH to include more politicians. What we saw last month was an example of what can happen when politics step into healthcare. 

The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners Chair, who is also the vice chair of the DBOH, attempted to appoint a new member to the DBOH without any communication that the Washoe County appointee position was open. The member who occupies the seat, Tom Young, founder and brewmaster of Great Basin Brewing Co., was told the day before our September meeting that it would be his last meeting, without the chance to reapply for the position. 

Even the Health District was not made aware that the position was open. 

Thanks in part to local reporting from This Is Reno, the Board of County Commissioners pulled the item to appoint the new DBOH member and Young is now in consideration for the seat, one he has served in remarkable fashion. 

I have had the opportunity to work closely with Young since January 2019. Tom was appointed as the Washoe County representative to the DBOH in 2017 and has been a valuable asset whose contributions are immeasurable. He is a role model for professionalism, leadership, and kindness and he is always present and knowledgeable about public health, which encompasses the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging and improving quality of life, and promoting health for the community. 

These goals in public health cannot be accomplished without the dedication and strength of community members, like Young, who truly lead by example. Through his hard work, Tom is connected in the community and facilitates numerous opportunities for healthier living. Highlighted even more during the COVID-19 pandemic, our community relies on people like Tom who bring the best of humanity and demonstrate the best of their calling to come together and support each other. 

The combination of one elected official and one non-elected community member from each area on the DBOH allows for balance in expertise and representation for the public. Maintaining integrity and transparency to our community is important and our health board is and should remain devoid of political motivations. 

Let’s keep in mind the premise of public health: we have a duty to follow evolving data and science to clearly communicate recommendations about prevention and treatment measures, safety of our living environment, and to work together to reduce health risks and provide the most benefit to each individual and to our community. 

The DBOH maintains a true community standard to bettering the lives of Washoe County residents. Please do not politicize it.  

Dr. Reka Danko

Reka Danko, M.D., is a member of the Washoe County District Board of Health. She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine and is a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. In addition, she is a hospitalist for Alteon Health and has been helping patients fight COVID-19 in our community since the pandemic began in March 2020.

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