County set to hire new health officer

The annual flu clinic is one thing overseen by the health department. File photo by Nick Lovejoy

According to a press release from the San Benito County Public Health Department:

On Tuesday, February 7, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors will appoint Gail Newel, MD, as the Public Health Officer for San Benito County assigned to the Health and Human Services Agency. Dr. Newel has an extensive background in obstetrics-gynecology and public health, as well as in higher education and global health.

After the birth of her first child at age 20, Gail was inspired and motivated to become a midwife and enrolled in nursing school. Soon thereafter, recognizing her drive and potential, the director of the nursing program suggested that Gail consider pursuing a degree in medicine. Gail was tentative about the idea because of the challenges of motherhood and entering a profession that had inherent challenges for women, but she decided to take on the challenge as a full-time student and mother. She graduated from UC Irvine School of Medicine in 1986. As she grew in her practice of medicine, so did her interests in public and international health, which led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley.

Dr. Newel has served in numerous roles throughout her career, her most recent full-time position as director of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health with the Fresno County Department of Public Health. She has also served as the Director of Obstetrics at UCSF-Fresno Medical Education Program. Gail is a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Associate Clinical Professor at UCSF, and continues as volunteer clinical faculty to the UCSF-Fresno residency program since completing her training there in 1990. She is a Co-Investigator on UCSF Preterm Birth Initiative research and consultant to the UCSF Preterm Birth Initiative – Fresno. She has been working per-diem for Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group in Santa Cruz delivering babies and providing hospital-based obstetrics and gynecology care.

Her list of accomplishments is extensive and impressive. Aside from having a thriving OB-GYN practice for 18 years, she served as chief of the OB-GYN Department at Kaiser-Permanente Fresno, where she developed the Mother-Infant Lactation Center, the Early Start Substance Abuse in Pregnancy Program, and a Teen Pregnancy Program. In 1998, she co-founded the Fresno Women’s Medical Group, which grew into a multi-specialty center serving the families of the region today. Dr. Newel has also worked on several global medical projects. From 2000-2009, she worked with a Fresno-based non-profit to provide services to women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She secured funding for a three-year project that linked women who were victims of sexual violence as a result of the armed conflict to medical and social services. She and a multidisciplinary team developed a training program that taught Congolese physicians how to perform fistula and other surgical repairs for Congolese women. She traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo numerous times during the course of the project.

In 2014, Gail played a significant role in the Central Valley Health Policy Leadership team which was awarded a grant from the Public Health Institute to participate in the California Leadership Academy for Public Health. As a result, the Fresno County Health Leadership Team was formed, which developed Fresno County’s first Community Health Implementation Plan.

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