May 4, 2021
Dr. Rex Archer, the visionary who expanded the focus of Kansas City’s Health Department to include equity, violence prevention, safety in housing and food, contagious diseases and immunizations, is stepping down after 23 years of service.
With Mayor Quinton Lucas and City Manager Brian Platt nearby, Dr. Archer made his announcement on Tuesday outside City Hall. His retirement date is Aug. 1.
“Not everyone has the opportunity to come back to the city in which they grew up to serve,” Dr. Archer said. “I wouldn’t trade these past 23 years for anything. But I need to make clear that nothing improves in public health through one individual. It’s the entire team; it’s the Health Department; it’s our elected officials, media and other partners. When we decide to work together we can make a difference.”
Dr. Archer completed his medical degree at the University of Kansas, and his General Preventive Medicine Public Health Residency and Master’s Degree in Public Health at the University of Michigan. He has been a primary leader in the adoption of health policies, such as protecting non-smokers from tobacco smoke in Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, and the Ford Motor Company, for which he received the Public Health Hero Award from Research America for his support of smoke-free legislation.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is the preeminent health emergency, Dr. Archer and the health department have worked daily since he started here in 1998 to protect residents during other emergencies, including the Anthrax attacks in 2001, the H1N1 epidemic in 2009-2010, and from the more than 100 other diseases and conditions that must be reported to the health department.
“Throughout his 23 years of service to Kansas Citians as Director of Public Health, Dr. Rex Archer has built a Health Department all Kansas Citians can be proud of — a Department that has prioritized equitable healthcare delivery to all communities in Kansas City and has prioritized wrap-around services as part of its fundamental mission,” said Mayor Lucas. “In expanding the scope of the Kansas City Health Department over the past several decades, Dr. Archer and his team have focused on delivery of proper mental health services to help combat violent crime; have worked to ensure every Kansas City family has access to healthy meals; have launched a Healthy Homes program to help ensure all, regardless of socioeconomic status, may live in sanitary homes; and have continued to deliver testing, vaccines, and other vital means of healthcare to Kansas Citians who do not have an established relationship with a primary care physician.”
“While Dr. Archer has led Kansas City through many difficult moments, none compare to the challenges our community has faced in the wake of COVID-19. I have appreciated Dr. Archer’s steady counsel as we’ve worked to keep our city — and this entire region — safe. I thank Dr. Archer for his leadership and his decades of service to Kansas Citians.”
During Dr. Archer’s tenure, the accredited Kansas City Health Department was the only local health department to win the Local Health Department of the Year Award more than once from the National Association of City and County Health Officials. The health department’s work and commitment under Dr. Archer also earned the community a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize.
The city will begin a national search to fill this position in the coming weeks.
This press release was produced by the City of Kansas City. The views expressed here are the author’s own.