May 16, 2022- After a three month vacancy, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) will soon have a new Health Director. Dr. Elaine Perry will join RHHD as Director on July 10, 2022. Dr. Melissa Viray, who has been serving as Acting Director of RHHD during the interim, will remain with RHHD as Deputy Director following Dr. Perry’s arrival.

Dr. Elaine Perry is a board-certified preventive medicine physician and comes to RHHD with a wealth of local, state, and federal public health experience with VDH, the US Navy, and the pharmaceutical industry. Most recently, Dr. Perry served as Interim Health Director in VDH’s Central Shenandoah Health District. She has also worked as a physician for Loudon County Health District and as the director of Peninsula Health District. During her time at Peninsula Health District, she was instrumental in starting the Coalition for Obesity Prevention-Peninsula and served as president of the Board of Directors of Access Partnership, a newly-formed non-profit organization working on access to health care for the Hampton Roads region. Beyond her work with VDH, Dr. Perry served in the US Navy as the Senior Medical Officer at two Navy Medical Clinics. She also worked in the pharmaceutical industry at Merck for over 12 years and has served as a consultant on vaccine safety with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr. Perry grew up in upstate New York and attended Penn State, graduating with a BS in Biology and Honors in Microbiology. She attended Dartmouth and Brown Medical Schools, graduating with academic distinction, before completing a Pediatrics internship at the Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth. She completed a residency in Preventive Medicine and her master’s degree in Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“Richmond City and Henrico County are diverse communities with rich histories and culture and a robust network of community organizations… still, the communities experience complex health inequities,” says Dr. Elaine Perry. “I’m looking forward to joining RHHD to continue the work towards eliminating disparities and supporting the health of all residents. I am thankful to work with such dynamic teams and am grateful to Dr. Viray for her leadership and warm welcome.”

After serving as the acting director since February, Dr. Melissa Viray is returning to her position as Deputy Director of RHHD where she’ll continue to grow the data and epidemiology infrastructure for both infectious and noninfectious diseases at RHHD, as well as provide  ongoing support to RHHD’s clinical teams. Before starting her role at RHHD in 2017, Dr. Viray served as the Deputy State Epidemiologist for the Hawaii Department of Health. She has also previously worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer and as a medical epidemiologist. Dr. Viray completed her adult infectious diseases fellowship at Washington University in Saint Louis, her internal medicine residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, her medical education at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and her undergraduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I am feeling energized and excited knowing that Dr. Elaine Perry will be joining us at RHHD in a couple of months,” says Dr. Melissa Viray. “I’m eager to partner with her and the rest of our staff to build health equity across our communities… I’m also looking forward to being able to devote more of my time and attention to building up our epidemiology and data programs that will be critical to informing and supporting our work in addressing Richmond and Henrico’s pressing public health issues.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic exemplified how critical the health districts are to the health, safety, and well-being of Henrico’s residents,” says John Vithoulkas, Henrico County Manager. “We have seen exceptional leadership across RHHD and believe Dr. Perry will be an incredible asset in maintaining our health districts’ ability to respond to public health crises like COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic.”

“On behalf of the residents of Richmond, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Melissa Viray for serving as the Acting Director for the Richmond Henrico Health District following the departure of Dr. Danny Avula in February of this year,” said Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “ Dr. Viray and the experienced Richmond Henrico Health District team are healthcare heroes who have worked tirelessly to keep Richmonders safe and informed throughout the pandemic, while supporting other key public health initiatives in the region. We look forward to working with Dr. Perry to maintain the same high standards and continuum of care for our city and region, and wish her the best in her new role with VDH.”

About Richmond and Henrico Health Districts: RHHD are sister public health agencies serving Richmond’s and Henrico’s communities. Our mission is to expose and address the root causes of health disparities, protect health by preventing the spread of disease, and build health equity by partnering with communities and working collaboratively across sectors.

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