CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Dr. Steven Eshenaur said his phone has not stopped ringing since he was named the next Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) health officer and executive director last week.
He said the calls have been a mixture of congratulations and people introducing themselves and ready to get to work. Eshenaur, DO, said he’s ready to work too, taking over for Dr. Sherri Young.
Eshenaur currently serves as the medical director and emergency physician at Jackson General Hospital. His experience includes serving as a state surgeon with the West Virginia Army National Guard, a volunteer medical director with the Summit Bechtel Reserve and a community paramedicine program leader.
Eshenaur, who was born in Mason County and grew up around the state, told MetroNews he’s ready for the challenge of taking over the state’s largest county’s health department.
“There is a bigger impact in serving the overall public need. I reached out to Dr. (Sherri) Young after she announced she was accepting another position and I subsequently applied to work at KCHD,” Eshenaur said of his interest in the job.
He graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in 1996 where he said he completed a residency at Charleston Area Medical Center and family practice with Young.
Eshenaur said he wishes to follow in Young’s footsteps of caring for citizens of the county.
“She (Young) has done a remarkable job in that position. A lot of hours, a lot of work trying to keep our citizens safe, immunized, healthy, and treatment with antibodies,” he said.
Eshenaur said KCHD’s leadership in establishing precedent and policy in public health caught his eye. He said that includes the KCHD’s work with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eshenaur said he wants to transition the health department out of the pandemic and into a time where the health department focuses on overall public health including HIV, substance abuse, roots, and immunizations.
“As we have watched the COVID case numbers continue to trend downward, I see us moving away from primarily being a reactionary health department to being a proactive health department,” he said.
The mitigation of HIV cases in the county is on top of his list of issues too. In Feb. 2021, officials with the US Centers for Disease Control said the county’s HIV outbreak is ‘one of the most concerning in the United States.’
“Really tackling that, coordinating with state and community partners as well as improving access to both testing and medications,” Eshenaur said.
Following a transition period, Eshenaur anticipates assuming his duties beginning June 2022.
In a statement following the announcement of Eshenaur, the President of the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health Jeremy Nelson said, “On behalf of the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health, I want to welcome Dr. Eshenaur to the team and thank Dr. Sherri Young for her steady leadership.”
“While Dr. Eshenaur has big shoes to fill, we are confident he is the right fit, at the right time, to be the next leader of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department,” added Nelson. “During this transition period, we look forward to coordinating with both Dr. Eshenaur and Dr. Young.”