No more delays: What to know about the July 15 deadline

NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Former state health commissioner Gary Cox returning to OU

Oklahoma Commissioner of Health, Gary Cox, speaks during a press conference to provide an update on the Coronavirus and Oklahoma's preparedness efforts at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, March 5, 2020.  [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma Commissioner of Health, Gary Cox, speaks during a press conference to provide an update on the Coronavirus and Oklahoma's preparedness efforts at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, March 5, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

A recently replaced commissioner of the Oklahoma Health Department is expected to become an associate dean at the University of Oklahoma.

The university announced on Monday that former Gary Cox has been appointed to the Hudson College of Public Health, pending approval from the OU Board of Regents.

“Gary Cox is a nationally recognized leader in public health practice with a track record of outstanding service at the city-county, state and national level,” said Gary Raskob, dean of the Hudson College of Public Health. “We are delighted he has chosen to join our college to bring his extensive experience for the benefit (of) our students, and to strengthen our partnerships with governmental public health and private community partners.”

Cox, 73, will serve as the associate dean for public health practice and community partnerships and as a professor in the Department of Health Administration and Policy. He will have a secondary appointment as a clinical professor in the OU College of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine.

An OU spokeswoman said the university has no details to release publicly on Cox’s annual salary. More information about his appointment will be available in the agenda for the OU Board of Regents’ July meeting, which has yet to be scheduled.

Cox has taught in the Hudson College of Public Health before. He was a part-time visiting associate professor for 17 years and helped develop the Integrated Public Health Practice Course. College accreditation reports show he taught public health law at OU.

Cox led the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and the Tulsa Health Department for 25 years collectively. Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed him the interim head of the state Health Department in September.

The state Senate declined to confirm Cox this year because he fell short of legal requirements for the position. Stitt chose Col. Lance Frye, a doctor and the State Air Surgeon for the Oklahoma National Guard, to replace Cox at the Health Department.

State law mandates Oklahoma’s health commissioner have a master’s degree in science, a medical degree or a doctoral degree in public health or public health administration. Cox earned bachelor’s degrees in education and history with a minor in science from Northeastern State University. He has a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa College of Law.

State lawmakers also had reservations about Cox after Attorney General Mike Hunter requested an audit of the state Health Department. Hunter asked for an investigative audit of department spending on COVID-19 protective equipment while Cox was commissioner.

A previous state audit found a number of concerns at the Cox-led Oklahoma City-County Health Department. Auditors reported "blatant favoritism," nepotism, violations of the whistleblower act, poor morale, questionable spending and 196 instances of embezzlement due to a lack of effective controls.

In a statement to The Oklahoman, OU said its decision to appoint Cox as an associate dean was based on his 50 years of public health experience and his “distinct qualifications.” The university did not specify what degree requirements exist for an associate dean position.

Accreditation reports from 2015 show the vast majority of the college of public health’s faculty had a doctoral, medical or law degree.

Leadership at the OU Health Sciences Center praised Cox’s decades in the public health field and his background as a national figure. He was elected to a term as president of the National Association of City and County Health Officials.

Senior Vice President and Provost Dr. Jason Sanders said Cox’s experience would “advance our goals of groundbreaking research, health workforce training and statewide partnerships.”

Cox began his academic career as a teacher in Cleveland Public Schools and later became an adjunct professor of environmental law at the TU College of Law.

Cox “knows well the needs of Oklahomans,” said Dr. John Zubialde, executive dean of the OU College of Medicine.

“His expertise will help OU Medicine on our journey to being the state’s leader in helping communities across the state address the health disparities that are crippling the health of our people and our economy,” Zubialde said.

Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia,... Read more ›