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City of Worcester Hires New Public Health Director

For Immediate Release: 11/23/2022 11:31 am

WORCESTER – The City of Worcester is pleased to announce the hiring of Soloe Dennis, M.S., M.E.P. as the Director of the Worcester Division of Public Health (WDPH). He will begin on Monday, Dec. 5, succeeding Acting Director Zachary Dyer, M.P.H., Ph.D., who has been serving in an interim capacity following the departure of Karyn Clark in July.

“I could not be more excited to welcome Soloe to the team after a robust search process for our new public health director. He brings exceptional leadership qualities, an incredible wealth of experience, and a commitment to addressing public health inequities. Even more, he knows and loves the City of Worcester as a former resident, and I look forward to collaborating with him to improve and protect the health of all our residents,” said Acting City Manager Eric Batista.

Reporting to Commissioner of Health and Human Services Matilde Castiel, M.D., Dennis will oversee the daily operations of WDPH and the Central Massachusetts Regional Public Health Alliance (CMRPHA). WDPH is the lead agency of the CMRPHA, a coalition including Worcester, Grafton, Millbury, Shrewsbury, and West Boylston working to sustain a viable, efficient regional public health district. WDPH provides community health, environmental health, emergency preparedness, nursing, epidemiology, medical direction, and policy technical assistance services across the CMRPHA.

“I am confident that Soloe is the right person to lead the Division of Public Health as Worcester faces challenges such as health disparities, COVID-19, homelessness, and substance misuse. He has accomplished amazing work throughout the state, and I am eager to work closely with him and the entire Division to advance our city’s health and well-being and build on the achievements of previous directors,” said Castiel.

Dennis comes to WDPH from the City of Springfield, where he has served as Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Health and Human Services since 2016, advising the Commissioner on policy and regulatory issues, program priorities, strategic alignment of activities, and resource allocation. He oversees several offices and initiatives covering substance abuse and prevention, tobacco, nursing, environmental health, problem gambling, marijuana compliance, health equity, racial justice, and public health preparedness and response.

Before joining the City of Springfield, Dennis worked for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) as the Director of Local Public Health Initiatives and as Regional Director for the Western Massachusetts region. As Director of Local Public Health Initiatives, he led workforce development initiatives to ensure that all of the Commonwealth’s 351 local boards of health had the appropriate skill set and training needed to carry out the 10 essential services of core public health functions. Dennis was instrumental in strengthening engagement and partnership with the state’s academic institutions around research and workforce development efforts. As Regional Director he oversaw the Northampton Regional Health Office, supporting MDPH priority areas and staff communications across all bureaus.

Previously, Dennis worked at Pioneer Valley Planning Commission as the Senior Public Health Planner, developing systems, plans, and programs to enhance the health department’s capacity to address health priorities in Western Massachusetts.

Dennis serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences Dean Advisory Board, MDPH Local and Regional Public Health Advisory Committee, Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Health Council.

Dennis earned his Master of Science in Environmental Health from the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences, and he is a graduate of the Commonwealth Senior Leadership Program and is a Master Exercise Practitioner certified by the Department of Homeland Security.

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