Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, who had been the director of health and human services in Baltimore County since 2006, “is no longer the Health Officer for Baltimore County and has departed” county employment, according to news releases from the state Department of Health and Baltimore County.

The Tuesday announcement said Branch’s employment with the county ended Monday, March 4.

A spokesman for Baltimore County said he was unable to share any more details about Branch’s leaving county government. A spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health said the department would not comment further on the “personnel matter.”

According to Maryland law, a health officer of a county can be removed only if the county and the state agree on taking the person from office.

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Branch has long been a well-regarded public health official statewide and beyond.

“He’s been a leader in public health in Baltimore County, and there is no corner of the public health world he’s not left his imprint on,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former state health secretary and the current vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Over his many years in the county, Dr. Branch has led many initiatives that have meant a lot to the health of specific populations, as well as the county as a whole.”

The county and the Maryland Department of Health will conduct a search for the next Baltimore County health officer.

Branch is a New York City native and graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Science before completing medical training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, according to an online profile.

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An internal medicine doctor, Branch maintains a current medical license in Maryland and has no disciplinary actions listed by the Maryland Board of Physicians.

Branch received national recognition in 2022 for his work and leadership during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was lauded at the time for opening a county mass testing facility at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, which later became a mass vaccination site for the state.

Then-Gov. Larry Hogan called it a national model for efficient and equitable distribution of the shots.

Izzy Patoka, the Democratic chair of the Baltimore County Council, said the county was lucky to have Branch as a leader during the early days of pandemic.

“I think Baltimore County, in a very unfortunate time for the planet, we fared better than others. And I think Dr. Branch had a significant role in that,” Patoka said Tuesday.

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“As Baltimore County’s health officer, Dr. Branch oversaw perhaps the most successful mass vaccination effort in the entire state over the last year and a half, and we are incredibly proud of the work he and his entire team did on behalf of our residents,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in a 2022 press release. “I want to congratulate Dr. Branch on this well-deserved recognition.”

Della Leister, a registered nurse, is the interim health officer for the Baltimore County health department and will be named acting director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Leister has been the deputy health officer in Baltimore County since 2010 and has over 35 years of experience in public health, according to the news release.

Leister was not available for comment. A spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Branch could not be reached for comment.

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