Jerome Loughridge and Kayse Shrum
As Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks, Secretary of Health and Mental Health Jerome Loughridge and Secretary for Science and Innovation Kayse Shrum listen Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (Tres Savage)

After about 15 months on the job, Secretary of Health and Mental Health Jerome Loughridge and Secretary of Science and Innovation Dr. Kayse Shrum are stepping down from their positions in Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet to return to their full-time careers.

Stitt announced via press release that Kevin Corbett, director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, will take on the secretary of health and mental health role. Elizabeth Pollard, who had been Shrum’s deputy, will step in as secretary of science and innovation.

Oklahoma “We are fortunate to have the ability to promote talented people like Secretary Kevin Corbett and Secretary Elizabeth Pollard to ensure a seamless transition,” Stitt said in the press release. “They both have made significant impacts on our state in just a few months, and I am excited to work with them as we continue our momentum toward becoming a Top 10 state.”

Stitt appointed Loughridge to the cabinet in March 2020, and he has served in the position in voluntary capacity while continuing to work in the private sector. Shrum was appointed the same day and is the current president for the OSU Center for Health Sciences.

Shrum and Loughridge had been leaders within the Stitt administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the pair appeared at many of Stitt’s numerous press conferences.

“All 4 million Oklahomans have benefitted from the wisdom, innovation and passion Secretary Loughridge and Secretary Shrum have led with during their service to our state,” Stitt said. “They have selflessly devoted many hours away from their families and careers and I wish them nothing but the best as they transition to their next chapters.”

Loughridge, who holds a master of public policy degree from Harvard, has spent the bulk of his career in the oil and gas industry. At the time of his appointment, he was president of Great Plains Oilfield Rental, where he had been since 2012. He left Great Plains shortly after becoming Secretary of Health, but he has kept a hand in the private sector. According to his LinkedIn page, Loughridge became CEO of the investment company NextStream in June 2019, and he recently left that position to become president of TMG Service Company, an oil and gas capital asset management company

Loughridge said he is grateful for the opportunity to have served Oklahomans.

“At the outset of the COVID-19 response, Gov. Stitt enumerated a specific set of priorities, among them protect the health and lives of Oklahomans and mitigate the impact to Oklahoma’s economy,” said Loughridge. “I am grateful for the opportunity to have contributed, in some modest measure, to the former. As a small business owner in a challenging economic environment, it is now time for me to return to the workforce and do my part to help the latter.”

Shrum is a pediatrician and holds her medical degree from the Oklahoma State University College Of Osteopathic Medicine. She has been president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences since 2013 and is the youngest person and the first female to become president of a medical school in Oklahoma.

She said she needs to devote more of her time to the OSU Center for Health Sciences, which is preparing to resume classes in the fall.

“As president of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, several urgent matters need my attention including safely preparing for the return of students to our campuses this fall and bolstering our healthcare delivery network to combat COVID-19,” said Shrum. “My resignation does not diminish my support for Gov. Stitt and his goals and my admiration for him remains unabated.”

Corbett, Pollard assume additional roles

Kevin Corbett
Kevin Corbett, director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, speaks to media Thursday, June 25, 2020. (Tres Savage)

Corbett joined Stitt at a press conference Thursday to discuss the findings of an audit on OHCA, which operates Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. The audit found no evidence of fraud in the agency’s $6 billion budget, but it did identify $29 million of health care reimbursements for Medicaid patients whose income status had not been verified.

“I appreciate Gov. Stitt’s confidence in choosing me to join his cabinet during such an important time for healthcare in Oklahoma,” Corbett said in Monday’s press release. “I look forward to collaborating with other leaders in the public and private sectors to improve the health of all Oklahomans.”

Pollard, who is the executive chairwoman of a Silicon Valley company called Applied Silver that focuses on infection prevention and antibiotic stewardship, has been involved in Oklahoma’s COVID-19 testing strategy.

“The past few months have demonstrated there is a tremendous need for innovation, especially in the healthcare and technology fields,” Pollard said in the press release. “Where some see challenges, I see opportunities for Oklahoma to be a national leader and carry out Gov. Stitt’s vision of being a Top Ten state.”