Pawlenty appoints Magnan new health commissioner

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Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed Dr. Sanne Magnan to replace Dianne Mandernach as state commissioner of health today. Magnan, the president of the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement, takes over a department that has been heavily criticized in recent months for failing to disclose health hazards related to mining.

“Dr. Magnan’s impressive credentials and hands-on health experience make her the right person to lead the Department of Health,” Pawlenty said, according to a report by KMSP-TV. “Minnesota is ranked the healthiest state in the nation and I believe Dr. Magnan will build on that tradition as we continue to work on improving and reforming health care in our state and protecting and promoting the public’s health.”

Magnan served as a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota and as staff physician at the Tuberculosis Clinic at the St. Paul-Ramsey County Department of Public Health. In her current role with the institute, Magnan heads an organization that seeks to use new research to develop treatment guidelines. Magnan also served as a vice president and medical director of consumer health for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, and headed Blue Cross Blue Shield’s center for prevention, which was created after the tobacco lawsuit settlement in 1998.

Magnan will face a difficult task in restoring confidence in the Minnesota Department of Health. Mandernach had drawn stern criticism from Democratic members of the Legislature, who accused her department of hiding details about the cancer deaths of 35 miners for more than a year, which delayed a study into whether taconite miners are at increased risk of dying from mesothelioma. Mandernach stated at the time that the “process took longer than expected, but we should have released the information sooner, with or without a plan of action.” Though Pawlenty declined to fire her, Mandernach ultimately announced her resignation in August.