The City of Austin has identified Desmar Walkes, M.D. as the City's next Medical Director/Health Authority. Dr. Walkes will begin her new duties on May 31, 2021.
Dr. Walkes has 33 years of experience in health care as a family practitioner, medical authority, medical director, and in administrative medicine. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with honors from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada and her Medical Doctor degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Dr. Walkes completed a surgical internship at Baylor College of Medicine and, for many years, has participated in medical mission trips to Central and South America, Asia, and Africa.
Dr. Walkes previously served as the Local Health Authority for Bastrop County, Texas, a position she held since 2007. She has been the point person for the Bastrop's COVID-19 pandemic response and vaccine distribution, participating in regular meetings with elected officials, State of Texas Public Health officials, schools, nursing homes, businesses, and residents. She has been a part of Bastrop's Emergency Operations Center and has given numerous presentations and comments to the media. In addition, she served as the
director of a multi-specialty outpatient clinic accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JACHO).
"I'm honored to be joining the Austin Public Health team and look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead as the next Medical Director and Health Authority for the City of Austin and Travis County," said Dr. Walkes.
The Medical Director/Health Authority reports to the Director of Austin Public Health and, by statute, is responsible for clinical oversight of medically related services rendered by Austin Public Health and the more than 300 licensed professionals.
"I'm so happy to have Dr. Walkes join our team as the next Medical Director for Austin Public Health and Health Authority for Austin and Travis County," said Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard. "Her 33 years of experience in health care as a family practitioner, medical authority, medical director and in administrative medicine make her a valuable asset to APH's high performing, collaborative executive team which is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art public health services," she continued.
Throughout her career Dr. Walkes has served on a wide variety of Advisory Boards including:
- Board Chair of the Texas Medical Partners for Violence Free Communities
- Central Texas Coalition for Indigent Healthcare Committee
- President of the Board of Directors for the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry
- The Secretary of Health and Human Services Task Force for the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer
- Community Advisory Board for the Metropolitan DC Response for the Women's Interagency HIV Study
- Advisory Board Member to Emergency and Resource Center for the Homeless
- Early Childhood Advisory Chair – Bastrop County
- National Sleep Foundation Board Member
Dr. Walkes also received several awards throughout her career including the Point of Light Award for the Lincoln Clinic from the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce, the Woman of the Year 2000 Award from the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce, the President's Award from the Barbados Association of Greater Houston, and the Unsung Heroes Award from the Congressional Black Caucus.
Dr. Walkes received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with honors from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Dr. Walkes completed a surgical internship at Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Mark Escott has been serving as the Interim Health Authority since October 2019. During Dr. Escott's term as Interim Health Authority, Austin and Travis County has experienced COVID related mortality rates that are less than half the rates of Texas and the United States.
"While the mission is not yet complete, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to improve locally and I feel confident that our next Public Health Authority will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to ensure a seamless transition," he said. "Therefore, this is an opportune time for my service as Interim Health Authority to conclude so that I can fully engage in my new role as the City's Chief Medical Officer effective May 31," he shared.