Dr. Khaldun reflects on leading state through COVID-19 pandemic, shows optimism for the future

Posted at 8:56 AM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 08:56:53-04

(WXYZ) — The Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, is finishing out her last week as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's right-hand woman when it comes to making tough decisions about the way forward in the COVID-19 pandemic.

I got a chance to speak one on one with Khaldun, who calls the job she is leaving a great honor and a challenge, but one she will cherish for the rest of her life.

We've seen Khaldun linked to Whitmer at every turn during Pandemic. She was part of the tough decisions from mask mandates to shut down schools and businesses across the state to keep people safe.

“How do you feel about the COVID crisis, it's been such a challenge from start to finish where we sit now what are your predictions?” I asked.

“I am very optimistic we have the vaccines now, and more than five million people over the age of 16 have gotten at least one dose we're now even doing boosters for some individuals,” Khaldun said.

There have been a few articles written saying disagreements about the mask mandates may have pushed Khaldun to exit.

“Can you tell me whether that's true or not? I mean, were medical differences a part of the reason you're leaving?” asked Clifford.

“Absolutely not, I have the utmost respect for the governor. There have actually been some tears shed as I've been talking about leaving, she has always valued and respected my guidance and my recommendations,” said Khaldun.

Dr. Khaldun is staying in Michigan and will remain with Henry Ford Hospital.

“This move is really just about an opportunity that was difficult for me to turn down," she said. "I'm incredibly honored to have served with Governor Whitmer she has always followed the science and the data and valued my opinion."

Khaldun says Michigan is doing far better than most states in the country when it comes to the pandemic, so she is optimistic, but I also asked about her safety.

“The Governor's life was even threatened. I mean were you ever afraid for your life like she was because of the hard decisions both of you had to make together?” I asked.

“It certainly has been challenging it's been unfortunate that something as simple as wanting to save lives has become political it's certainly been different for me being a public figure. I certainly was not expecting us to be in the public as much as I have been, but it's certainly been an honor,” said Khaldun.

And now with jobs at stake over-vaccination status.

“I'm required to get the flu shot every year to keep my job as a doctor my children are required to get vaccinations to go to school and so vaccine requirements are part of our society and I think there's a role to play,” said Khaldun.

Lastly, I wanted to know the message she wanted to leave the community and the governor.

“I'm incredibly grateful for this opportunity to lead and to serve and the way people have supported me, so it's truly been the honor of my life,” said Khaldun.

We'll likely know soon about Dr. Khaldun's new job but for now, she will only say she will continue her life's work of helping to make communities healthy because that is what she loves to do.