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Lia Russell

The Baltimore Sun

March 5, 2024

The longtime director of the Baltimore County Department of Health suddenly stepped down on Monday without an explanation.

Baltimore County spokesperson Sean Naron and Maryland Department of Health spokesperson Chase Cook both said Dr. Gregory Branch was “no longer with” either the county or state as of Monday, and that they “thank Dr. Branch for his service to the county and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

County health officers are nominated by their county jurisdiction and approved by the secretary of the Maryland Department of Health.

Naron and Cook both declined to say why Branch left, or if he had been fired or left voluntarily.

“We are not commenting further on this personnel matter,” Cook said.

Branch did not respond to two requests for comment Tuesday.

Della Leister will serve as interim county health officer and acting director of the Department of Health. Since 2010 she has served as county’s deputy health officer, according to her LinkedIn page. She has worked for the county since 1984 and earns $212,796.48 a year, according to county salary records.

The state and the county will “commence a search” for the county’s next health officer, according to a news release announcing Branch’s departure.

Branch had served as the director of the county Department of Healthsince 2006 and as a deputy state officer for the Maryland Department of Health since 2008. He earned a state salary of $295,736 with a county supplement of $103,628.03, according to Cook.

He received his physician’s license in 1994 after graduating from the State University of New York at Buffalo’s medical school in 1991. He has no known disciplinary actions, according to the Maryland Board of Physicians.

Branch led the county’s COVID response during the pandemic, when Baltimore County became one of the hardest-hit regions in Maryland. He earned a national award in 2022 from the Association of Immunization Managers for the county’s vaccine initiative program. He testified that year before the General Assembly about the harassment he and other public health leaders received during the pandemic.

Two other department heads have abruptly left county employment since November.

Marcus Wang, the head of the Department of Economic and Workforce Development, resigned after just three months on the job; former Human Resources Director Rhoda Benjamin resigned at the same time.

Neither have responded to requests for comment since their resignations.

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