Kansas is fortunate to have the talented, highly trained Lee Norman leading the Kansas Department of Health and Environment during a public health crisis.
When Gov. Laura Kelly met with the editorial board in the weeks prior to the general election in 2018, she impressed on board members that her commitment to hiring qualified people to run state agencies made her worthy of election to the state’s highest office.
Kelly stressed the importance of needing highly competent agency secretaries, not political appointees, and vowed she would leave politics out of the selection process.
After leadership failures by many of former Gov. Sam Brownback’s appointees, there was no question the state needed competent leadership in every agency. She’s delivered on her promise in many ways, but Lee Norman has proved exceptionally capable.
His life’s work has essentially prepared him for this moment. Norman served in the U.S. Air Force as a family physician, flight surgeon and combat medicine instructor and later a family physician in Seattle. In addition to his training and education to become a physician, he has an executive MBA and a master’s degree in health planning and systems analysis.
Norman also has extensive military training that is undoubtedly helpful as the state adapts its response to the pandemic. He’s a colonel in the Kansas Army National Guard and guides medical troop sustainment and training, health services support, force health protection, biosecurity and serves as adviser and liaison to the Kansas Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
It's hard to imagine a person better suited for the job during a global pandemic.
We’ve come to rely on Norman for his frank advice and stern admonishments when Kansans aren’t heeding best practices. Take for instance his tweet on July 21: "Time for some plain talk. Schools can’t be ‘safe islands’ in an unsafe community. Counties and cities who don’t use the proven measures to reduce spread of Covid-19 ask schools and hospitals to fix their sloppiness and mistakes, which is wrong to do. The virus will find a way in."
Since March, Secretary Norman and the folks at KDHE and the Department of Emergency Management have worked tirelessly to deploy resources, educate the public and scale up testing (in an outdated state lab). It’s been a thankless job but one that deserves heaps of gratitude and recognition.
If you’re looking for more information about COVID-19 or you’re feeling uncertain about what information you can trust, check out what Norman has to say. Thank you, Secretary Norman, for the commitment of you and your team to keep Kansans safe and healthy.