(This article has been updated with comments from the Oregon Health Authority.)
Oregon’s dental director, Dr. Kaz Rafia, has announced his resignation – just under a year after his debut.
Since starting at the Oregon Health Authority on July 6, 2021, Rafia’s work has been to improve dental care for more than one million low-income people on Oregon’s health plan. He was highly regarded for his background, experience, and dedication to reform.
Rafia did not immediately respond to requests for an interview or comment. Her supervisor, Oregon Health Authority Chief Medical Office Dana Hargunani, released a statement in response to a request for comment.
“OHA recently received the resignation of Dr. Kaz Rafia, who is leaving for a new out-of-state opportunity. We greatly appreciated Dr. Rafia’s contributions to the advancement of oral health policy during his time at the OHA and wish him the best in his future endeavours,” said Hargunani.
“We will be recruiting a new dental director in the coming weeks, but we will spend time in an internal process to ensure that we best position a future oral health professional for success. Oral health and related health equity issues are important to the OHA. We are committed to elevating these issues within the agency so that our various teams can help address the challenges of oral health policy.
Public records obtained by The Lund Report show that on Tuesday, June 7, Rafia sent Hargunani a note simply saying, “I have accepted an offer and will resign from my position effective the end of the day on June 20, 2022. Thank you for the opportunity and support.
On Friday afternoon, June 10, he shared the news with more employees, in a “Dear Colleagues” email widely distributed throughout the agency.
“I have made the difficult decision to step down as State Dental Director, effective June 20, 2022. It has been a privilege and an honor to work with you to improve the oral health of all residents. from Oregon. I am especially grateful for the dedication and ingenuity of the oral health team at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). They have all contributed significantly to our collective progress over the past year, and I know they will continue to do so… Thank you for your partnership in this work. I will continue to apply my leadership in the field of oral health and hope that our paths will continue to cross.
Rafia was hired with a salary of $152,220. Her 25 years of experience included work in private practice as well as with the nonprofit Partnership for International Medical Access-Northwest, and an academic appointment at Oregon Health & Science University.
His work in the state included overseeing the authority’s so-called Oral Health Roadmap, a plan that seeks ways to improve quality and access to dental care and eliminate health inequalities.
Rafia’s predecessor, Bruce Austin, worked at the agency from 2015 to 2020 before leaving to work as clinical director for Capitol Dental Care.
You can reach Nick Budnick at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NickBudnick.