State Epidemiologist retires after 30 years with MSDH

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 7:29 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi’s top epidemiologist is set to retire at the end of June.

Wednesday, Dr. Paul Byers looked back at his lengthy career with the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Dr. Byers first joined MSDH in 1993 as a clinic physician working in the STD clinic before climbing the ranks.

“That really just sort of piqued my interest, and over the years, I had opportunities to serve in different positions and be involved with all aspects of public health,” said Dr. Byers.

The Mississippi College and the University of Mississippi graduate would go on to become State Epidemiologist in 2016.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

“One of the things that we knew early on with COVID-19 was that it was going to be a challenge and that it was going to have a significant impact on the U.S. and on Mississippians,” said Dr. Byers.

After serving 26 years with MSDH, Dr. Byers admitted he was contemplating retirement before the pandemic took off in 2020.

It was his moral compass that led him out of that decision and to focus on the enormous task at hand, which was saving as many lives in Mississippi as possible.

“I felt personally compelled to stay, to be part of the response, to do what I could to try to help Mississippi, navigate our way through what’s been the worst pandemic of our lifetime, and certainly the worst pandemic in a century,” said Dr. Byers.

Long nights consisting of over 18-hour shifts began to take a toll on Dr. Byers, as well as the thought of missing so much time with his family.

“I definitely want to spend time with my wife and my family and catch up on some lost time over the last several years during the COVID-19 response. There were a lot of days I wasn’t around...” said Dr. Byers.

Aside from arguably the biggest hurdle in his medical career, Dr. Byers reflected on the overall picture, which was the opportunity he had to change the lives of people across the state.

“I feel very blessed and very grateful for the career that I’ve had. The fact that I do feel like, I’ve been able to make an impact on public health and in reality even individual health of Mississippians,” said Dr. Byers.

Dr. Byers will finish his career with MSDH on June 30, and Dr. Kathryn Taylor will become the Interim State Epidemiologist effective July 1.

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