By Rebecca Tan,
Toni L. Sandys The Washington Post
Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles is leaving his post to take up a new job at Hazel Health, a San Francisco-based start-up that provides telehealth services to K-12 schools. Gayles, a pediatrician by training, will serve as chief health officer, the company announced this week.
Gayles had announced his resignation from the county last week but did not share what he had planned to do next. His last day in Montgomery will be Sept. 12.
“Hazel Health has established itself as the leader in providing telehealth services to children across the country,” Gayles said in a statement Thursday. “This platform has enormous potential to change the way pediatric physical and mental health care is delivered and close the significant gaps that remain in access to care for children.”
A native of Chase City, Va., Gayles served as D.C. chief medical officer before becoming Montgomery’s top health official in 2017. He has served as the public face of the county’s pandemic response, clashing on several occasions with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) over health precautions and the pace of reopening. In August last year, some county residents sued Gayles for attempting to bar nonpublic schools from holding in-person classes. The lawsuit has since been dismissed.
Gayles’s resignation last week came as a surprise to many in county government, including some of his own staff and County Executive Marc Elrich (D). But in discussing his new role, Gayles stressed his long-standing interest in bridging health disparities, particularly among children.
Pre-pandemic, he pushed for the county to receive more state and federal funding to address health inequities in infant mortality.
During the pandemic, he set up an “equity framework” for the distribution of coronavirus tests and vaccines that prioritized vulnerable communities, earning criticism from some residents who did not agree with the approach.
Hazel Health was founded five years ago by a former Apple software engineer, according to Tech Crunch. It expanded significantly when the pandemic shuttered schools, its partners said, working with school districts to provide physical and mental telehealth services to students. It most recently raised $35.5 million to expand its reach.