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Dr. Rebekah Gee, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, speaks during the Acadiana Culture of Health Summit at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Student Union on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has appointed an interim secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health while he continues to search for a permanent replacement to Sec. Rebekah Gee, who is leaving the agency Friday. 

Edwards tapped Stephen Russo, LDH's executive counsel, as interim secretary. Russo, a graduate of the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, joined LDH in 1996 and has served as executive counsel since 2008. 

The governor said in a statement he hopes to hire a new secretary in the "coming weeks." 

"As Dr. Rebekah Gee moves on from the Department today, I am appreciative of her partnership over the last four years, which led to more than 460,000 working Louisianans getting health coverage and better health outcomes for many in our state," Edwards said in a statement. "I wish her well. We will name a permanent secretary who brings to the job a strong vision for improving health outcomes in the state, while also focusing on the administration of Louisiana’s largest and most complex state agency.”

Edwards said recently he has a long list of potential candidates for health secretary on his desk that he is wading through. 

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com