Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: April 20, 2023
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Christian Martinez,

Governor Glenn Youngkin Announces State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton

RICHMOND, VA –  Governor Glenn Youngkin today has announced his appointment of longtime healthcare leader Dr. Karen Shelton, MD FACOG as the next State Health Commissioner.

“Experience and leadership matter. Dr. Shelton brings a wealth of knowledge in patient care and is positioned to recognize the individualized needs of all Virginians,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Dr. Shelton will be a tremendous asset to public health across the Commonwealth.”

“Having served in various healthcare settings in both the public and private sectors and in her role as a primary care provider, Dr. Shelton will bring leadership and expertise to the Governor’s goals of improving the health of all Virginians, enhancing maternal and children’s health and addressing the dual crises of behavioral health and fentanyl poisoning that affects communities across Virginia,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services John Littel.

Dr. Shelton is returning to public health after leading Virginia’s Mount Rogers Health District for over five years through the Opioid Epidemic and the COVID-19 Pandemic. Much of Dr. Shelton's work focused on the Opioid Crisis and a large focus was on babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and navigating moms, as well as babies, into optimal care. During her final year with the Virginia Department of Health, she provided steady leadership to three health districts across the Commonwealth, becoming an expert in the unique healthcare needs of urban, rural and suburban communities. Her work during the COVID-19 Pandemic helped get students back in the classroom, significantly mitigating learning loss for those in Bristol. 

A Board-Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Dr. Shelton treated patients in Bristol for nearly 20 years before turning her focus to public health. In her new role as State Health Commissioner, Dr. Shelton said, “As a healthcare provider, I look forward to helping Virginians lead healthier and happier lives with improved access to the right care for themselves and their families. As an OB/GYN, it was an honor to care for patients, their babies, and their families one-on-one. Moving into public health again, I hope to harness the trust my patients had in me and advance the mission of the Virginia Department of Health alongside dedicated healthcare professionals.”

Dr. Shelton received a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Virginia and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Eastern Virginia Medical School. She holds her undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University. Dr. Shelton currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Bristol Regional Medical Center and Smyth County Community Hospital in the Ballad Health System.

Dr. Shelton was honored recently with the Woman of Distinction Award by the United Way of Southwest Virginia. She previously directed the Mount Rogers, Cumberland Plateau, and Lenowisco Health Districts during the COVID Pandemic, leading those districts to have the fastest rollouts of COVID testing and vaccinations in Virginia. Dr. Shelton will start May 1, 2023.

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