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Alumnae Stories

Alumna Leads San Diego County in COVID-19 Response

April 2020

As San Diego County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, C’78, has been responsible for developing countywide policies and guidance in response to COVID-19. 

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considered COVID-19 a serious public health threat in early March, and the risk to the general public low, Dr. Wooten assessed that a change could happen at any time, and that the coronavirus was a global issue that would remain fluid. 

From banning mass gatherings of more than 250 people as defined by the state of California, to advising local business owners and operators on March 12, Dr. Wooten helped lead a calculated and organized response to the virus.

"The virus inevitably will continue to spread for some time. We must be prepared for an imminent outbreak," she wrote in a memo to area business owners. "We are all in this together with one singular mission, to protect the public and prevent the spread of this virus."

Dr. Wooten has been with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency since 2001, initially as Deputy Health Officer and, since 2007, as the Public Health Officer. Trained in family medicine, public health, and preventive medicine, she has oversight for almost 500 employees and a budget of over $100M, serving a county of 3.1 million residents.

A member of the Public Health Accreditation Board's Board of Directors, Dr. Wooten is president of the Health Officers Association of California. She also serves on the Board of the California Conference of Local Health Officers, currently holding the role of immediate past president and co-chair of its Chronic Disease Committee. From 2009-2011, she served on the board of directors of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Dr. Wooten began her career in 1990 when she completed a Preventive Medicine Residency with an emphasis in sports medicine in the joint San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health/ University of California, San Diego, program. From 1990 to 2000, Dr. Wooten practiced medicine as a faculty member in the University of California San Diego Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. She remains a volunteer Associate Clinical Professor in the department and is an Adjunct Professor at San Diego State University/Graduate School of Public Health.

Dr. Wooten is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she obtained a master’s degree in public health in 1981 and a medical degree in 1986. She completed her residency training at the Georgetown/Providence Hospital Family Practice Residency Program in Washington, D.C. in 1989.