Public Health Heroes



Wilma J. Wooten, MD, MPH
Public Health Officer
County of San Diego

Wilma J. Wooten, MD, MPH, public health officer for the County of San Diego, is board-certified in family medicine and has a master’s degree in public health. She received both professional degrees from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, followed by residency training at the Georgetown/Providence Hospital Family Practice Residency Program in Washington, DC. In 1989, she completed her preventive medicine residency with emphasis in sports medicine in the joint San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health/University of California-San Diego program.

Wooten has been with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency since 2001, initially as deputy health officer and serving as public health officer since February 2007. In her current role, she has oversight of almost 500 employees and a budget of approximately $100 million, serving a county of 3.1 million residents.

Wooten champions public health through her spirit of collaboration, patience, and forward thinking to represent local public health. Although she has a full-time position as health officer of San Diego County, she volunteers as president of the California Conference of Local Health Officers. She consistently gives of her time and currently advises the California Department of Public Health by representing the local public health perspective on numerous leadership work groups, including healthcare reform, tobacco control, emergency preparedness, laboratory system, and climate change. Wooten also serves on the board of the Public Health Accreditation Board.

Wooten’s specific accomplishments as San Diego County’s public health officer include:

  • Managed the San Diego public health responses to the 2008 measles outbreak and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, as well as the public health involvement in the 2007 San Diego wildfire.
  • Prompted by lessons learned from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, sought and obtained grant funding ($476,000) to implement an inventory management system to automate vaccine, equipment, and supplies tracking and utilization.
  • Selected as one of 30 sites to participate in the Public Health Accreditation Board beta test site program and later received a five-year grant award for the National Public Health Improvement Initiative to support public health accreditation readiness.
  • Selected for grant awards to support obesity prevention, including the Community Putting Prevention to Work ($17.5 million), resulting in completion of 15 interventions, the Community Transformation Grant (up to $15.1 million over five years), and the SNAP-ED Grant ($350,000).
  • Collaborated with agency leadership to expand an evidence-based home visitation program to the entire county to target first-time, pregnant mothers; subsequently received grant funding ($900,000) from the state to support this expansion.
  • Worked closely with the San Diego Office of Education, school districts, and medical provider community to implement AB354, which required 7th to 12th grade students to show documented receipt of the Tdap vaccine. More than 230,000 students were vaccinated, and all 42 San Diego school districts reported to the state.
  • Provided leadership and oversight of staff efforts between the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Branch and the Health Care Policy Administration for a smooth transition of eligible Ryan White clients to the Low Income Health Program.
  • Provided leadership, in collaboration with the California Office of Binational and Border Health and the Imperial County Health Department, to create the California Border Health Collaborative to enhance communication, collaboration, and coordination among public, private, and academic institutions to protect and improve the health of individuals, families, and communities along the California/Baja California border region.


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