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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo YouTube video screenshot

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he has selected Harvard-trained physician Dr. Joseph Ladapo to serve as the next Surgeon General and Secretary of Health for the Sunshine State.

“Dr. Ladapo comes to us by way of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA with a superb background,” DeSantis said. “He has had both a remarkable academic and medical career with a strong emphasis in health policy research. Dr. Ladapo will bring great leadership to the Department of Health. I would also like to thank both Dr. Scott Rivkees and Dr. Shamarial Roberson for their hard work on behalf of all Floridians.”

A Nigerian-born professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Ladapo was previously an associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), a faculty member in New York University (NYU) School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health, and a Staff Fellow at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). He holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School as well as a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His research has focused on “clinical trial interventions and reducing the population burden of cardiovascular disease.”

“I am honored to have been chosen by Governor DeSantis to serve as Florida’s next Surgeon General,” Ladapo said. “We must make health policy decisions rooted in data and not in fear. From California, I have observed the different approaches taken by governors across the country and I have been impressed by Governor DeSantis’ leadership and determination to ensure that Floridians are afforded all opportunities to maintain their health and wellness, while preserving their freedoms as Americans. It is a privilege to join his team and serve the people of Florida.”

Despite Ladapo’s medical credentials, mainstream media coverage of his appointment has fixated on his dissenting from the federal health bureaucracy’s consensus on COVID-19. 

The Miami Herald reports that at the press conference announcing his appointment, Ladapo stressed that while “fear as a way of making policies” has “unfortunately…been a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic,” Florida will “completely reject” it.

When asked about the controversial COVID-19 vaccines, Ladapo declared his opposition to the “idea that people don’t get to make their own decisions on issues of health related to their own personal health,” and criticized the way the COVID vaccines have “been treated almost like a religion,” when in reality they aren’t the only path to “good health.” He also attributed vaccine hesitancy to a “climate of mistrust” for which public health officials themselves are responsible.

Ladapo is a vocal opponent of mask mandates. In April, he penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that, while potentially helpful in “some settings,” masks “are not the panacea officials have presented them as.” As support, he noted that “[d]espite a mask mandate imposed last April and steady, high rates of compliance, California experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases over the winter.”

“There has been no governor who has been more pro-COVID than Ron DeSantis and his newest hire, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, is further confirmation of that,” claimed Democrat National Committee (DNC) spokesperson Adonna Biel. “Instead of going with a trusted advocate for science, DeSantis is once again playing games with peoples’ lives by appointing someone who has trafficked anti-vaccine and anti-mask rhetoric.”

In fact, while Democrats and their allies have tried to discredit DeSantis since the beginning of the pandemic because he resisted COVID lockdowns in favor of a more targeted approach that focused on the protection of elderly Floridians, even the left-wing Associated Press eventually admitted that (as Ladapo referenced) California’s far more restrictive policies didn’t save more lives than Florida’s targeted approach. Democrats eventually tried to explain away the state’s COVID statistics by falsely accusing the DeSantis administration of manipulating the numbers, implicitly conceding the data was a credit to DeSantis.

Throughout the pandemic, DeSantis (who has been floated as a potential frontrunner for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination) has been generally positive about the COVID vaccines while defending the rights and choices of Floridians regarding their own health, including standing against school closings, vaccine mandates, mask mandates, and local lockdowns, as well as embracing therapeutics including hydroxychloroquine and monoclonal antibodies.

LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here.