Mike Beebe Names Nathaniel Smith Chief of Health Department

Gov. Mike Beebe has named Dr. Nathaniel Smith as director of the Arkansas Department of Health and state health officer. Smith has been serving as the department's interim director for the past three months after the departure of Dr. Paul Halverson.

"Nate has proven himself to be a steady, knowledgeable leader of this large and vital state agency," Beebe said. "I'm confident he'll continue to guide our state through the many important health issues that we face."

Smith began working for the state Health Department in 2004. A specialist in infectious diseases, he has served previously as state epidemiologist and as deputy director for Health Programs.

Halverson announced in February that he was leaving his post in May for a position as dean of the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The state Health Department has more than 5,000 employees and a budget of almost $425 million.