State epidemiologist resigns from Maine CDC

Posted March 20, 2014, at 3:16 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2014, at 4:21 p.m.
Dr. Stephen Sears
Courtesy photo
Dr. Stephen Sears

AUGUSTA, Maine — Dr. Stephen Sears, Maine’s state epidemiologist since 2010, has resigned from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sears said he notified Maine CDC last week that he has accepted a position as chief of staff for the Veterans Affairs Maine Healthcare System. His last day at Maine CDC will be May 30.

Sears’ resignation comes as the agency faces intense scrutiny under a state investigation into document shredding and the alleged mishandling of a competitive grant. Last week, officials at the agency told members of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee that CDC workers were asked to destroy documents related to the distribution of funds in the Healthy Maine Partnership program. Scoring was changed at the end of the grant process, according to the testimony.

Sears said his decision to resign was unrelated to the probe. He has not been implicated.

“I took this job because it was an opportunity,” Sears said Thursday. “I was approached, and after having conversations, it seemed like a good move at this point in my life.”

Sears will oversee clinical programming for the VA in Maine, primarily working from Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta. An interim employee has been serving in the chief of staff position, he said.

An infectious disease physician, Sears also temporarily served as acting director of Maine CDC before the current director, Dr. Sheila Pinette, was hired in May 2011. Prior to that, he worked as chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital in Portland and at MaineGeneral Health, as well as in the public health field.

“I’ve had the incredible good fortune of working in multiple different systems. … This is an opportunity to work in another system and learn,” he said.

A replacement for Sears has not been named. The state epidemiologist is tasked with preventing the spread of infectious diseases, tracking their causes and effect on the population, and responding to outbreaks.

“We certainly wish Dr. Sears the very best, appreciate his service to the people of Maine, and look forward to possible opportunities to collaborate with him in the future,” John Martins, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Maine CDC, said in an email.

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