Dr. Gail Newel
Medicine runs in Dr. Gail Newel’s family. Her father was a pediatrician and founding member of Fresno Children’s Medical Group, and Dr. Newel’s interest in obstetrics began young, when she delivered her first baby as a 19-year-old undergraduate while in completing a study and service term in Honduras...
Raised in the Mennonite church, Newel was instilled with a strong sense of social justice and community service, and has focused on family and community health during her career. The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge for all medical health professionals, but Newel’s background and upbringing have helped prepare her for the challenge.
“Sometimes in public health, we have to make hard choices in order to protect all community members, including the most vulnerable,” Newel said. “I want everyone to know that the sacrifices were asking from our residents are based on science, and are being done for one very important reason: to save as many lives as possible.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and her M.D. from UC Irvine, Dr. Newel returned to UC-Berkeley to get a Master’s in Public Health. She later rose to become chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Kaiser-Permanente in Fresno, where she developed the Mother-Infant Lactation Center, the Early Start Substance Abuse in Pregnancy program, and a Teen Pregnancy program. She also helped open the new Kaiser Medical Center there, overseeing the survey and accreditation processes necessary to open the women’s services areas of the hospital. In 1998, she helped found the Fresno Women’s Medical Group, serving as CEO for 14 years.
Newel is married to another obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr. Kelli Beingesser, with whom she has raised three children and survived cancer. Though much of her career was spent in more conservative areas of the Central Valley, Dr. Newel chose to live openly despite sometimes negative consequences.
After working in clinical practice for over 30 years in a variety of settings, as well as serving as clinical faculty with the UCSF training program and as Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Newel was named Santa Cruz County’s Health Officer in 2019.
Under State law, County Health Officers have broad power to act to protect public health and safety. Newel recognized early the challenged COVID-19 would pose, declaring a local health emergency on March 4, before any confirmed cases in Santa Cruz County.
She also made Santa Cruz County the first to join a group of six Bay Area Health Officers in issuing a Shelter-in-Place order to protect residents and reduce the spread of COVID-19, and has issued a series of supporting orders in support, including calling for private testing companies to report all test results to the County.
"Here is my advice to all Santa Cruz County residents – be kind to one another during these times," Newel said. "Call to check on a neighbor, say thank you to essential workers helping you at the supermarket checkout line, and most of all, practice safe physical distancing. Without immunity or a vaccine, it is the only way to stop the disease. We are all in this together." read more
Health Services Agency Director
Born in the Magway region of Myanmar, Mimi Hall’s commitment to public health began at a young age.”
Hall, Santa Cruz County’s Health Services Director, is the daughter of physicians who practiced under austere conditions in the rural countryside of Myanmar. ...The family lived in a hospital complex where the bamboo huts had no running water or electricity. Orderlies boiled river water to sterilize medical instruments, and if a patient came in at night, the only general anesthetic -- ether – could not be used as it would react with the lanterns used for light and explode.
Hall’s family came to the US when she was young to escape military rule, human rights violations and violence against ethnic minorities. Her parents instilled in their children the importance of equity, humanity and service, which serve as guideposts for her work and personal life.”
“Through my parents’ commitment to the people of our village, I learned that health, through equitable access to basic needs like sanitation and food and medical care, is a human right, ” Hall said. “I have dedicated my professional life to upholding these principles to improve the health of the community. ”
Hall earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana, and a second bachelor’s along with a Master’s of Public Health from University of Hawaii-Manoa. She began her public health career in working to reduce the prevalence of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and has worked in California local health jurisdictions since 1999, including as public health director in Sierra, Plumas, Yolo and Santa Cruz counties.”
During implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Hall was instrumental in convening northern rural counties to ensure the unique needs and conditions of rural residents were not left behind in state and federal policy and funding decisions. And in Plumas County, Hall served as one of the first post-9/11 County Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response coordinators, building plans and forming partnerships to prepare for health crisis including bioterrorism and pandemic flu events.”
Hall is currently president of the County Health Executives Association of California (CHEAC), which includes public health directors from California’s 58 county and three local city health jurisdictions. She has also been a key contributor to the National Association of City and County Health Officials, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Public Health Association, The Rural Policy Research Institute, the California Department of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Office Local Health Department Leadership group, and a number of local boards and commissions.”
Hall became director of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency in 2018, and has helped oversee improvements to County-run health care services, including the opening of a new South County Behavioral Health Center. She also frequently collaborates with Santa Cruz County’s network of public and private health care providers.”
“One of the great things about Santa Cruz County is the sense of community and togetherness,” Hall said. “As we move forward toward addressing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that we’re all in this together, and that each member of our medical community has the best interests of patients in their heart.”
Hall enjoys rural living and resides in the Santa Cruz mountains with her husband of 20 years, three children and two dogs. read more
Dr. David Ghilarducci
EMS Medical Director
With a deep background in public safety and emergency medical care, including experience providing care during international disasters, Dr. Ghilarducci is well-prepared for a crisis. For four decades, Ghilarducci has been coming to the rescue, first as a volunteer firefighter out of high school and now as part of the team... leading the County Public Health Division’s novel coronavirus response.
“I have always been driven by wanting to help and a feeling that I have a skill set that I could apply in that area,” Ghilarducci said. “My career has focused on helping people in distress, and I will need those skills as we address this challenge as a community.”
After graduating valedictorian from UCSC in 1985, Dr. Ghilarducci went on get an M.D. from Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 2000. He is a board-certified EMS Medical Director with experience in FEMA Urban Search and Rescue operations, and not only serves as Santa Cruz County’s Deputy Health Officer, but as an Emergency/Urgent Care Physician with Kaiser-Permanente
Ghilarducci’s public safety background stretches back to 1980, when he began his career as a volunteer firefighter with the Gilroy Fire Department. He would later rise to Fire Captain and Acting Battalion Chief in the Santa Clara County Fire Department, and after transitioning to medicine served as president of the Emergency Medical Director’s Association of California, EMS Medical Director of the Santa Clara County EMS Agency and later co-director of the Stanford University EMS Fellowship Program.
After a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince in 2010, Dr. Ghilarducci arrived as part of international medical relief corps to care for residents. The rampant poverty and lack of housing contributed to a disaster that impacted more than 3 million Haitians and killed well over 100,000.
“We were forced to practice Austere medicine,” Ghilarducci said. “What we’re used to doing here in the US is, when there are questions, we order a CAT scan or get a particular drug, and we didn’t have any of that there. We had to be resourceful in making sure the Haitian people received the best care possible.”
In 2014, Ghilarducci was named Deputy Health Officer and EMS Medical Director for Santa Cruz County. He works closely with Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel and Health Director Mimi Hall, as well as the local medical community, to make sure Santa Cruz County is prepared to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ghilarducci and his wife Sally, a middle school science teacher), live in Santa Cruz with their two children, a chocolate lab, and various goldfish. read more