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January 13, 2023

Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah to join U.S. CDC leadership

people and podium File PHOTO / MAUREEN MILLIKEN Dr. Nirav Shah, right, is seen with Gov. Janet Mills during a press conference early in the pandemic.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has been appointed principal deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shah will assume the new role, second in leadership under U.S. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in March.

Gov. Janet Mills, who announced Shah's appointment Thursday, credited him for delivering “Maine’s nation-leading success in confronting the pandemic, “and there is no doubt in my mind that he saved the lives of many Maine people.”

“While I’m sad to leave the Maine CDC, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” said Shah. “In my new role, I will be honored to serve not just Maine, but the entire nation and carry forward the good work that we have done here.”

Shah’s appointment as principal deputy director came as part of a planned, broader overhaul of that agency announced by the U.S. CDC director in August.

MaineHealth CEO Andy Mueller congratulated Shah on the appointment.

 “Staying true to Maine’s motto of ‘Dirigo,’ Dr. Shah’s leadership through the worst pandemic in a century propelled Maine to top-tier performance for COVID response among the states,” Mueller said. 

Shah worked closely with Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew on the pandemic response.

Mueller credited Shah’s “calm and sensible advice” and his leadership during vaccination efforts as a key contribution toward saving lives. 

“We at MaineHealth are grateful for his contributions and sad Maine is losing him,” he said. 

Said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, “During his tenure as Maine CDC director, Dr. Nirav Shah’s briefings during the pandemic were a source of calm, and he provided helpful advice on how Mainers could protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

Lambrew appointed Shah as head of the Maine CDC in June 2019, with the mission of rebuilding the agency and the state’s public health infrastructure.

“Since his arrival in Maine before the pandemic, and every day throughout it, Dr. Shah has been a trusted advisor to me and an extraordinary leader of the Maine CDC,” said Mills. “But even more than that, he was a trusted advisor and a leader to the people of Maine during one of the greatest public health crises of our time. Day after day, week after week, Dr. Shah spoke calmly and directly to the people of Maine, many of whom were scared and uncertain.

Lambrew noted that when Shah first arrived in Maine, rebuilding the state’s public health agency appeared to be the biggest challenge he’d face.

“Today, we look back with awe and appreciation at his ability to strengthen the Maine CDC while tackling the immense public health threat of COVID-19,” Lambrew said.

Maine DHHS will conduct a national search for the next Maine CDC director. In the interim, Deputy Director Nancy Beardsley will serve as acting director, a position she held prior to Shah’s arrival.

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