Director of Knox County Health Department announces resignation

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The senior director of the Knox County Health Department, Dr. Martha Buchanan, has resigned from her position. She informed the Knox County Mayor’s Office of her decision Thursday morning.

The resignation will be made effective on October 1. She will remain on the Knox County Advisory Board of Health as a health officer until Dec. 31.

In addition to her leadership role at the health department, Buchanan led the Knox County Board of Health through the onset of the coronavirus pandemic when countywide alcohol curfews and business capacity regulations were instituted. The Knox County Commission voted to strip the Knox County Board of Health of its regulating powers in March of 2021, relegating the board to an advisory role.

“It has been my honor to serve with the Health Department team in service of the Knox County community these past 17 years. The excellence, expertise, and dedication they demonstrate every day is beyond comparison. I am incredibly proud of the work we have done together to improve health in Knox County. However, I believe it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”

Dr. Martha Buchanan

Dr. Buchanan joined the health department in 2004, working as an assistant public health officer before being promoted to the role of public health officer in 2006. She then took on the role of director in 2010.

She is a graduate of Carson Newman College and East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine.

In an interview with Buchanan, she told us what it was like navigating the novel virus, and public criticism.

“I will still stand by the board of health. They’re a body of health professionals who care deeply about our community. That’s why they serve. That’s why they continue to serve. They would continue to support the evidence and the science. We will continue to make those recommendations that are based on evidence and science, tempered with what’s a reasonable recommendation…That won’t change,” she said.

“Stating the facts and providing our community with information with which to make informed decisions and making evidence-based recommendations is what we do day in and day out, but that doesn’t lessen the impact on us as people when something so tragic happens in our community,” she added.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs released the following statement.

“I understand Dr. Buchanan’s decision and wish her the best but was surprised to receive her resignation today. I respect the work she’s done in the name of public health—during the pandemic and well before it. She is highly regarded in the medical community, by health department staff, and by me. We are fortunate she has served Knox County for as long as she has. Her job is a high-pressure job that has become even more stressful due to COVID-19, and I admire what she’s done in such a difficult year. Dr. Buchanan will continue serving Knox County as the local public health officer until the end of December, and we look to forward to working with her until then.”

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