Gerd Clabaugh was appointed by Governor Branstad in May 2014 as the Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Gerd has served in many capacities within IDPH, including Deputy Director, Director of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention, Director of Acute Disease Epidemiology and Emergency Response; during the early 1990s, he was appointed Director of the Center for Health Policy.
He is past-president and past-legislative chair of the Iowa Public Health Association and has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Iowa, Montana State University-Billings, Des Moines University, and Iowa State University. He has been lead author or contributed to academic publications in the journals Value in Health, American Journal of Medical Quality, and Vaccine.
Gerd’s community involvement includes serving on the city council and as the Mayor Pro Tem in the city of Johnston, Iowa. He is the past-Chairman of the Board of Directors for central Iowa’s regional solid waste agency, providing services to over 400,000 Iowans.
Gerd has pursued doctoral studies at the University of Iowa and holds a Master's degree in Public Administration from Iowa State University and a Bachelor’s degree from Drake University. He is married with four children.
Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention
Brenda Dobson, Division Director
Brenda Dobson has served as the division director since December 2015. Prior to her current role, she was bureau chief for the Bureau of Nutrition and Health Promotion and the state nutrition director. She worked as a WIC nutrition consultant in the department from 1984 – 2010, serving as the WIC Nutrition Services Coordinator for over 20 years with responsibility for policy development, professional training, client education materials and other activities supporting delivery of quality nutrition services.
Brenda was employed as a clinical dietitian at Iowa Lutheran Hospital from 1979 – 1984 where her responsibilities included geriatrics, pediatrics and the dialysis unit. She earned her master of science degree in adult education from Drake University and her bachelor of science degree in food and nutrition/dietetics from Iowa State University.
As division director, Brenda is responsible for oversight of programs that promote healthy behaviors, prevent disease and provide access to care. These programs include maternal and child health, home visiting, adolescent health, reproductive health, oral health, breastfeeding promotion and support, and the prevention and management of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. Bureaus in the division also focus on the health delivery system including local public health services, rural health, safety net programs, volunteer health care providers in free clinics, critical access hospitals, and health care transformation at the state and federal levels. Several health care work force initiatives are also in this division such as increasing the number of medical residency slots in Iowa, work force shortage designation, and recruitment/retention efforts through tuition and training support, loan repayment and other strategies.
State Medical Examiner
Dr. Dennis Klein
Dr. Dennis Klein, originally from Damariscotta, Maine, serves as the Iowa State Medical Examiner. Dr. Klein came to IDPH after completing his last year of medical training in Forensic Pathology and has been with the department for 17 years. If asked to describe himself in one word, Dr. Klein says that word be would “endurance.” That is a trait well suited to his profession, which often requires long hours and involves interaction with both law enforcement officials and grieving families. He says the collegial atmosphere at the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner and the well trained, experienced professionals there make his job enjoyable. He is proud of the partnerships and strong reputation his office has built with other agencies.
With one daughter in college and another in high school, Dr. Klein enjoys spending time with family and finding opportunities to bike and run. He makes an effort to be well-rounded; volunteering when he can, learning new disciplines and sports, and supporting his family and friends. Growing up in Maine and receiving his graduate and post graduate degrees in Maine (Bachelor of Arts from Bowdoin College in Brunswick) and Vermont (Doctor of Medicine from University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington), it may not be surprising that Dr. Klein enjoys the colder months in Iowa. He says he loves winter!
Tobacco Use Prevention and Control
Jerilyn Oshel, Division Director
Jerilyn Oshel has served as division director for the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control since October 2014. Prior to her current role, she worked with the divisions youth program, community partnerships and Quitline Iowa.
As division director, Jerilyn oversees daily functions to ensure a comprehensive and best practice tobacco control program is implemented throughout the state. Collaboration is key to a successful program. Jerilyn partners with key organizations to educate on the importance of tobacco control.
State Public Health Medical Director and Epidemiologist
Dr. Patricia Quinlisk
With a public health career that has taken her around the globe, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk has served the state of Iowa as IDPH Medical Director and State Epidemiologist for the last 23 years. Originally from La Crosse, Wisconsin, Dr. Quinlisk holds a number of academic degrees, including a Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point; MPH from Johns Hopkins; and a Doctor of Medicine from University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dr. Quinlisk says she knew public health was her calling after serving in the Peace Corps in Nepal and seeing firsthand the importance of public health in preventing diseases. She came to the Iowa Department of Public Health after serving in a similar position at the Oklahoma State Health Department.
In her free time, Dr. Quinlisk enjoys hiking, gardening and traveling. If asked to describe herself, she would say she is “passionate about prevention.” Although Dr. Quinlisk encourages a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, she admits she “hates carrots, except in carrot cake, where you can’t taste the carrots anyway.”
Sarah Reisetter has served as the department's deputy director since August 2016. Prior to her current role, she was bureau chief for the Bureau of Professional Licensure.
Sarah served as the director of elections for the State of Iowa from 2008-2014, where her responsibilities included oversight of all federal, state and local elections and voter registration processes. She served as deputy auditor for a local county government prior to working for the state and earned her law degree from the University of Iowa in 2006.
As deputy director, Sarah is responsible for oversight of the department's communications office, data management and health equity program, legislative affairs, and the bureau of planning services which includes human resources, workforce development, performance management, quality improvement, state health assessment and improvement planning, strategic planning, certificate of need, public health modernization and accreditation.
Acute Disease Prevention, Emergency Response and Environmental Health
Ken Sharp, Division Director
From Altoona, Iowa, Ken Sharp says his career in public health happened by accident. With a degree in Environmental Science from Simpson College, Ken had intended to go into the field of environmental work; however, coming out of college, there were limited opportunities. He stumbled into a job posting for a temporary position at IDPH conducting private water well testing and assessments, and 23 years later, he is still with the department (although he leaves the well water testing to others, now!). With a Master’s degree from Drake University, Ken is proud of a history of successful program implementation at IDPH that includes Environmental Health Capacity Building, Environmental Health Services Network (EHS-Net), Public Health Tracking, and currently advancing System Development efforts for time critical conditions.
Ken and his wife have three daughters, two of which attend college at the University of Iowa, with the third in middle school. In his free time, Ken enjoys fishing and hunting and works to ensure a strong future for both by volunteering with organizations like Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited. Ken is a repeat state champion archer and even won a national archery championship. He now doesn’t even own archery equipment! As many parents can relate to, once children entered the picture, Ken found other interests took priority over his hobby.
Administration and Professional Licensure
Marcia Spangler, Division Director
Marcia Spangler has served as director of the Division of Administration and Professional Licensure since May 2007. Marcia’s career with the state of Iowa began as a budget analyst at the Iowa Department of Management. In that role, she worked closely with IDPH management and staff as well as other state agencies until 1989 when she became IDPH’s bureau chief of finance.
As division director, Marcia is responsible for the oversight of the bureaus of Finance (budget, accounting, contract administration), Health Statistics (Vital Records), Information Management and Professional Licensure.
Marcia holds a degree in Business Administration from Iowa State University.
Kathy Stone, Division Director
After 19 years as a social worker, program manager and department administrator in a large hospital system, and 12 years in managed care, Kathy Stone joined IDPH in 2007 because as she puts it, “It was the perfect job at the perfect time.” A decade later, Kathy says she enjoys the public service aspect of her career at IDPH, as well as great colleagues and the opportunity to employ creative thinking. Originally from Dunkerton, Iowa, Kathy holds a degree in Social Work from the University of Northern Iowa and a Master’s in Business Administration from Iowa State University.
As division director for behavioral health, Kathy is responsible for oversight of the Bureau of Substance Abuse, which includes the division’s Problem Gambling and Suicide Prevention programs, the Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis, and the Office of Injury, Disability and Violence Prevention. The division also houses the Office of Medical Cannabidiol, as established by the state legislature in 2017, as well as the department’s Anatomical Gift and Child Protection Center programs.
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Deborah Thompson serves as IDPH’s legislative liaison. Deborah says she was drawn to her career at IDPH because the core public health principles of assessment, policy development and assurance aligned well with her principles of good governance and resource management. Deborah holds both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Drake University.
In her five years at IDPH, Deborah says the accomplishment of which she is proudest is passage of the bill providing the authority for the Iowa Health Information Network to be made into a nonprofit, because she believes it was a great step for continuing to increase patient-centered care by using electronic records in Iowa’s health care system. When not representing IDPH at the legislature, Deborah enjoys spending time with her 2-year-old son, Lincoln, decorating her new home and going for walks.