DES MOINES — After a nearly year-long vacancy, the state medical director has been on the job for 49 days. Dr. Robert Kruse is not a native Iowan, but Kruse says he established strong roots here as a young adult.
“I did start kind of my career path in undergrad at the University of Iowa in biomedical engineers and went on to pursue my masters in public health with a focus on environmental and occupational health and my medical degree at St. Georges University,” Kruse says. “From there I actually trained as a family physician at Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and joined as a full time kind of core teaching faculty…teaching new doctors to be family physicians.”
Kruse, who is 37, was medical director of occupational health at MercyOne in Des Moines when he interviewed for the job of state medical director. Kruse says his background gives him a vision of how primary patient care and public health interact.
“Having kind of those diverse experiences whether it’s engineering or whether it’s a family physician delivering care in various capacities, whether it’s in-patient, out-patient, taking care of newborns, end of life care,” he says.
Kruse started with the state on October 7, 2022, shortly after the Department of Public Health and Human Services merged. He says under the new alignment, there may be more ways to address the health of Iowans at risk for chronic disease.
“Working together to look at some of these opportunities to address some of those needs and address them as we see them,” he says.
Kruse replaces Dr. Caitlin Pedati as state medical director. Pedati was hired in 2018 and became a central figure in the state’s early response to COVID-19. She resigned in late October of last year and is now director of the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health.