Matthew Q. Christiansen, MD, MPH
Commissioner and State Health Officer
Bureau for Public Health
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
With the New Year came the appointment of a new Commissioner and State Health Officer. As a native of Roane County, Dr. Matt Christiansen grew up hunting and fishing here. Now he lives with his 4-year-old twins and wife in Huntington, WV.
As a family physician and public health expert, Dr. Christiansen is passionate about working with West Virginians. His goal is to create real, positive, lasting change in the health of our communities that spans
into future generations.
We sat down with Dr. Christiansen to hear more about his motivations, goals, and tips for West Virginians:
Q: What is your vision as the State Health Officer?
A: My vision for the Bureau for Public Health is to help create a West Virginia where everyone is empowered to live their healthiest lives.
West Virginia is the most beautiful state in the nation and has the best people, but unfortunately we have some of the worst health outcomes in the U.S. By focusing on our strengths of community and
resiliency, we can change our health outcomes together.
Q: What drives you to make these changes?
A: I grew up seeing my dad, who is a rural primary care doc in Spencer, West Virginia, come home every day telling us how much he loved his job. I looked up to how he was a servant to his community and the
impact he had. He was the only doctor in town when my mom went into labor, so he even ended up delivering me!
Following in his footsteps, I now understand why my father felt the way he did. It’s an incredible honor and responsibility to be able to sit down across from someone and have them share things they haven't
shared with anyone else, and to be able to help them. It’s humbling to be able to do that as a physician, educator, and public servant in West Virginia.
As a Roane County native raising a family in our state, I won’t accept anything less than success in making sure that West Virginia is as strong and healthy as we can be. I have high expectations for myself, the staff at the Bureau for Public Health, and for our state.
Q: You’re entering this position as we begin a different phase of responding to COVID-19. What does this mean for West Virginians?
A: The state public health emergency related to COVID-19 ended on January 1, 2023 and the federal emergency is set to end on May 11, 2023. This does not mean that COVID is over. It does mean that
some of the policies and funding to respond to the pandemic are coming to a close.
COVID-19 is still here and will likely be in our communities for a long while. As with any serious threat to our communities and loved ones, we must continue to look out for ourselves and those we care for.
When you are sick with any virus, staying home is good for you and our communities. For continuing COVID-19 prevention and treatment, staying up-to-date on vaccination, testing, and seeking treatments early if you test positive are important ways to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy.
(In fact, check out our Vaccination Due Date Calculator and Free Testing Locator below!)
COVID-19 shots will stay free of cost for at least a few more months before transitioning to the more routine ways of receiving and paying for vaccines. That’s one reason why it’s a good time to make sure that your insurance provider has your most current contact information, or to touch base with a WV Navigator for help finding affordable coverage: 1-844-WV-CARES.
Q: Do you have other tips for West Virginians to prepare for these changes and the road ahead?
A: West Virginians look out for each other, and we can double down not only on our public health efforts together but our own personal health as well. For example, I’d encourage you to schedule those preventative health check-ups that found their way off the calendar during these hectic years of the pandemic.
Personally, as the weather warms up, I am also making sure to get outside with my family. Spending an evening in the woods or fishing at the pond is how I unwind and keep myself healthy both physically and
mentally. Wild, wonderful West Virginia keeps me grounded. I invite my fellow West Virginians to find ways to stay active and include fresh foods into their busy days in the ways that work best for them.
I also know that the pandemic has placed a heavy load on all our shoulders, handing us stressors we’ve not had to deal with in the same ways before. I want you to know that it is normal to have some feelings of uncertainty or unsettledness around the new world we now live and work in. It’s important to pay attention to those feelings and connect for help (call, text, or chat with someone 24/7 at 1-844-or HELP4WV).
And of course, I’m making sure that my family and I stay up-to-date on all our immunizations to protect ourselves and our communities, and I urge the same for you and yours.