Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced at his daily Covid-19 report on Wednesday that he appointed Dr. José Romero as Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health.

Dr. Romero, who has been serving as interim secretary of health, replaces Dr. Nate Smith, who has accepted a job in Atlanta at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Romero previously served as ADH’s chief medical officer. He currently chairs the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is providing guidance nationally on the development and administration of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“This was an easy decision,” Hutchinson said in a news release. “Dr. Romero has a national reputation for his work with infectious diseases. He has been involved in our fight against COVID-19 from the first day. His vast knowledge of viral infections has been integral to our decision making as we have refined our response to the pandemic. His years of work within the state’s medical community will allow a seamless transition as he assumes this important role.”

Romero moved to Arkansas in 2008 as Director of the Section of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. He served as the Director of Clinical Trials Research at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute from 2008-2019.

“I am honored to be named to this important role and look forward to ensuring that the Department of Health fulfills its mission of protecting and improving the health and well-being of all Arkansans,” Romero said. “I’m excited to work with the governor, the Legislature, our partners at the local, state and federal level, and the people of this state to help Arkansans live healthier lives.”

He has been a member of the Arkansas Vaccine Medical Advisory Committee since 2008 and chair of the committee since 2015. Since 2012, he has been the ADH Pediatric Tuberculosis Physician.

During his time at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Romero was Director for Latino Health-Related Research Affairs and Director of the Minority Health Education and Research Office.