Minneapolis physician Sanne Magnan will seek to restore faith in the state Health Department.
As the state's new health commissioner, Dr. Sanne Magnan will try to protect and enhance the health of Minnesotans.
But her first task will be reassure legislators and others who say they lost trust in the department and its previous commissioner.
A Minneapolis physician with wide health-systems experience, Magnan, 55, appeared to take the first steps toward doing so Thursday at a news conference, where Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced her appointment.
"I am a physician, a scientist and a leader," she said. "I think the openness of leaders is very important, and listening to many stakeholders is important to building trust, and I pledge to do that."
Magnan replaces Dianne Mandernach, who resigned last month after intense criticism.
For a year Mandernach had suppressed a state study about 35 cancer deaths related to taconite mining on the Iron Range.
In addition, in 2004, Mandernach's credibility suffered when a website posting by the department suggested abortion might have a role in breast cancer. Critics denounced those claims as junk science, and the wording was removed from the website.
Magnan said Thursday she will share the department's research findings with the public.
Sen. Linda Berglin, a key legislator, endorsed Magnan's appointment Thursday.
"I believe Dr. Magnan to be of the utmost integrity. She has earned the respect of the medical community as both a brilliant clinician and competent manager in her role as president of the Institute on Clinical Systems Improvement [in Bloomington]," said Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, who heads the Senate's Health and Human Services Budget Division.
"I have confidence that she will lead the Department of Health in a way that restores public confidence and improves public health in Minnesota," Berglin said.
However, two Iron Range legislators said Magnan has significant work to do.
"She's got a pretty big job to do to restore public confidence in the department," said Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. "What concerned me most about this whole mesothelioma thing on the Range probably wasn't so much the issue here on the Range, but what else is it about public health across Minnesota that we don't know? There's a serious lack of confidence in the department."
Said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm: "I'm just hoping that ... she restores the faith of the public in the department. ... I would think that after all these years in which we've tried to get results out of the [Health] department and haven't been able to get any, we're going to have to actually see some good cooperation in order for people to say that something has now changed and that it's going in the right direction."
Keeping her doctor's job?
Magnan, a specialist in internal medicine, will start work about Nov. 1.
She will leave her job as president of the Institute on Clinical Systems Improvement, which fosters collaboration between health-care providers and insurers in Minnesota and surrounding states.
She also is staff physician at a tuberculosis clinic in St. Paul a half-day each week -- "and I'd like to keep practicing there if I can make it work," she said. "Seeing patients teaches us things every day. Seeing health care from their perspective grounds you."