Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey to Retire

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Todd Grey, has announced his retirement following a 30-year career at the Office of the Medical Examiner (OME). Dr. Grey’s retirement is effective July 1, 2016.

Dr. Grey first joined the OME in 1986 as an assistant medical examiner and was promoted to chief medical examiner in 1988. During his career, Dr. Grey has performed approximately 8,860 autopsies and another 4,070 external examinations.

“The significance of Dr. Grey’s career in Utah can’t be overstated,” said Utah Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Joe Miner. “He has helped provide answers to thousands of families about what happened to their lost loved ones, has played a critical role in the prosecution of criminals, and has had an immeasurable impact on public health in the state.” 

Dr. Grey received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his medical degree from Dartmouth. His career highlights include: Overseeing the design and construction of the current OME building in 1991, as well as a new building the office will move into later this year; changing state law to give the OME jurisdiction over motor vehicle-related deaths; and expanding the OME staff from two to six pathologists.

Dr. Grey is also widely credited for intitially identifying the epidemic of prescription drug related overdose deaths in Utah.

“Being able to sound the alarm about emerging public health threats has been one of the most important aspects of my career,” said Dr. Grey. “We’re uniquely positioned to identify trends in what is causing deaths – whether it’s suicide, prescription drugs, or communicable diseases – and to then work with our colleagues in public health to help implement programs that will hopefully reverse those trends.”

Dr. Erik Christensen will replace Dr. Grey as the chief medical examiner effective July 1, 2016. Dr. Christensen has worked as an assistant medical examiner in the OME’s office since August 2008. Prior to joining Utah’s OME office Dr. Christensen served as assistant chief medical examiner in Richmond, Virginia and Greenville County, South Carolina. He is board certified in anatomic, clinical, and forensic pathology. Dr. Christensen attended Brigham Young University as an undergraduate and received his medical degree from the University of Virginia.

One of Dr. Christensen’s top priorities as chief medical examiner will be improving turnaround time of OME cases. “Families are directly impacted when we fall behind with our caseload, as are law enforcement agencies, funeral homes and insurance companies,” said Dr. Christensen. 

For more information on the OME, visit

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Media Contact
Tom Hudachko
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-6232
(m) 801-560-4649

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Take Precautions against Mosquitoes and Mosquito Bites

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Public health officials across Utah are reminding all residents who will be outside over the 4th of July holiday and the rest of the summer to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
When making plans to be outside, prevent mosquito bites by covering arms and legs and using an insect repellent with 20%-30% DEET, which is safe to use during pregnancy.
Find and remove any puddles of water or standing water around your home to reduce mosquito breeding sites, including in pet dishes, flower pots, wading pools, buckets, tarps, and tires.
Wipe out your birdbath every few days to keep mosquito eggs from sticking to the bottom.
Maintain your swimming pool to prevent mosquito breeding.
Report bodies of stagnant water to the local Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). Visit for a list of MADs.
Keep doors, windows, and screens in good condition and make sure they fit tightly.
Consult with an immunization travel clinic before traveling to areas that may have mosquito-borne illness such as Zika or dengue and take the necessary precautions.

So far this season, no locally-acquired human cases of any mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus (WNV), Zika virus, or chikungunya have been reported in Utah, and the mosquitoes that carry Zika virus aren’t currently found in Utah. Even so, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) epidemiologist Dallin Peterson warns, “Since there is no vaccine for humans for these diseases, taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the key to reducing your risk for infection.”  A West Nile virus vaccine is available for horses and officials recommend all horses be vaccinated against the disease.

While West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, not all mosquitoes carry the virus. The mosquitoes that carry the virus are typically out from dusk to dawn. But, this year there is an additional concern. Due to the spread of the Zika virus in other parts of the world, officials in southern Utah are also on the lookout for the mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus. Those mosquitoes tend to bite mostly during the daytime and are also the same type of mosquitoes that carry dengue and chikungunya. So, it is especially important to use insect repellent and cover your arms and legs when you are traveling to countries with these diseases.

“The best way to reduce your risk for any illness carried by mosquitoes is to use an insect repellent with DEET when you’re outside,” says Peterson. “Adults and children older than two months of age can safely use repellents that contain up to 30% DEET,” Peterson added. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months of age.

Mosquito surveillance in Utah is underway and will continue into the fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit The UDOH web site will be updated each Wednesday through October with available detection information. Information on the Zika virus is available at

Health care providers and women who are pregnant and have questions or are concerned about the Zika virus may call 1-800-822-2229 or text for information.

Media Contact:
Rebecca Ward
(o): 801-538-6682
(c): 801-352-1270

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Utahns May Now Compare Doctor Offices for Treatment of Diabetes and Bronchitis: All Payer Claims Database set to change health care in Utah

(Salt Lake City, UT) – For the first time, officials at the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) have been able to compare outcomes for two quality measures and primary care clinics by name using the All Payer Claims Database or APCD. The results show high compliance overall among primary care clinics with the use of the Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test to help patients manage their diabetes. However, avoiding the use of antibiotics when treating adults for acute bronchitis, when this treatment was not called for, was low. Both results were consistent with national data.   

“What makes this analysis notable is that for the first time, people will be able to look up their doctor's office and see how they stack up against other doctor's offices for these two measures. The measures showed significant variation in the state, with some clinics doing very well on one or both measures while others have ample room for improvement,” said Norman Thurston, Director of the UDOH Office of Health Care Statistics. “We hope Utahns will use it to make better informed health care decisions.”

Data from the APCD showed (note: higher rates are better for both measures):
  • HbA1c testing rates are high across all clinics. No clinic with 10 or more patients had a compliance rate less than 70%.
  • 68 clinics had an HbA1c testing rate of 100%, with an average of 5.3 patients per clinic.
  • Avoidance of antibiotic treatment for adults with acute bronchitis (AAB) rates were generally low. The average AAB compliance rate for clinics with 10 or more patients was 37.9% but some clinics had compliance rates as low as 5.9%.
  • 21 clinics had AAB compliance rates of 100% with an average of 3.7 patients per clinic.
These measures were selected after extensive input from stakeholders. HbA1c testing was selected because it shows how well a patient’s diabetes is being controlled. The higher its use among primary care clinics, the better. Avoidance of antibiotic treatment for adults with acute bronchitis is important because bronchitis is almost always caused by a virus and antibiotics are not effective for treating it. Both standards of care for these measures are well known, but it is generally believed that there is room for improvement. The analysis included 232 clinics large enough to be reported by name and 139 clinics that were reported by geography only, due to their small size.

The Utah APCD is the fifth operating APCD in the nation and consists of medical and pharmacy claims, as well as information about member eligibility and providers for all private health insurance payers covering Utah residents. As of 2014, the APCD receives information on more than 80 million health care services provided annually to Utahns.

“The real power of the APCD comes from the ability to analyze care provided to patients across payers, providers, and time. The APCD has the granularity to compare costs and quality by geography, patient groups, providers, payers, and virtually any other classification that can be defined,” said Thurston. “It is an essential tool to improve quality, reduce costs, and promote cost transparency.”

The Utah State Legislature gave the UDOH statutory authority to collect and analyze all health care claims paid on behalf of Utahns into the APCD in 2008, with a goal to fill critical information gaps needed to make effective health policy decisions and empower health care purchasers with knowledge about cost and quality. This report is also required by state law.

To download a copy of the complete data analysis visit Information on the Utah APCD can be found at

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Media Contact:
Norman Thurston
Office of Health Care Statistics
(o) 801-538-7052 (m) 801-386-3541