Dr. Matthew Sutter will have a difficult challenge ahead as he transitions into his role as the new Allen County health commissioner in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sutter was chosen May 28 by the executive board of health to succeed current Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan.

“I think Dr. Sutter is highly and uniquely qualified for the position of health commissioner,” executive board president Dr. William Pond said. “… He is well respected by his colleagues throughout the community. I think he is very well positioned to carry on that tradition of excellence left by Dr. McMahan.”

Sutter has more than 25 years of experience in health care, having served as a firefighter, paramedic and chief medical officer at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne. He holds a specialty certification in emergency medicine as well as a Master of Business Administration. He is currently the director of medical affairs at Adams County Memorial Hospital.

“He’s really excelled and shown the community what he can do when he’s given the opportunity to lead — not only in a small organization, but as his experience has advanced, leading large organizations,” executive board member Dr. James Cameron said.

Sutter’s tentative start is June 15. Department of Health Administrator Mindy Waldron said it is unclear whether Sutter’s role will be long-term. The position will be split into two part-time roles, and Sutter will be tasked with learning the ins and outs of the department over an aggressive 90-day period. He will fulfill the duties of medical director for the department, and a part-time physician will later be hired to fulfill clinical needs.

Board of health vice president Patricia Hays said the interview process began before COVID-19 hit Allen County, and the board had narrowed the field down to two qualified candidates by May.

“It’s definitely a challenging role and one that coming into the middle of a pandemic brings a lot of extra challenges and a lot of extra time constraints with it,” Cameron said.

McMahan announced her plans to retire as health commissioner earlier this year. She has served in the role since 2000, and plans to retire June 5.

“Dr. McMahan has been a true blessing for our community, and we are all better because of her service,” Pond said.

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