The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has hired Jessica Hancock-Allen as the new director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division (IDEPC). The division is the MDH unit chiefly responsible for monitoring for infectious diseases and for developing strategies to prevent and control them to protect Minnesotans.
Hancock-Allen will start at MDH in May 2023. Kris Ehresmann, who retired in February 2022, was the most recent director of the division. Since her retirement, the post has been filled on an interim basis by Emily Emerson. Emerson will return to her previous role as assistant division director when Hancock-Allen joins the department.
“We are excited to have Jessica join MDH,” said MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff. “From managing infectious disease investigations to helping us coordinate response efforts with partners in health care and local public health, the director of our infectious disease division is a key part of our leadership team. We look forward to adding her knowledge and experience to our work protecting the health of all Minnesotans.”
Hancock-Allen is a nurse practitioner with extensive experience in high-profile public health services. She most recently worked at St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health, where she managed the tuberculosis control program and clinic. In this role, she focused on improving patient-centered operations, improving communication across teams and implementing community engagement efforts. From 2020 to 2021, she led COVID-19 prevention and control efforts for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which serves thousands of people experiencing homelessness. Earlier she established and ran the medical respite program at Higher Ground in St. Paul for Catholic Charities.
Before arriving in Minnesota, Hancock-Allen served as an epidemic intelligence service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stationed in Colorado. In this role, she led a range of outbreak investigations and served in deployments to Sierra Leone and The Gambia during the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak. Early in her career, she was a nurse in the cardiac intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and with the Denver Hospice.
Hancock-Allen earned master’s degrees from the Harvard School of Public Health and Simmons College in Boston. Prior to that, she served as a health, water and sanitation Peace Corps volunteer in rural Ghana. She has undergraduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and from Wake Forest University.