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Massachusetts' Interim Health Dept. Head Stepping Down

Update Date: Apr 06, 2013 02:53 PM EDT

Dr. Lauren Smith announced Friday that she will be vacating her office after eight months serving as the interim commissioner at the state level with the Massachusetts’ Department of Health.

Smith, who was brought in last fall to handle two high-profile scandals, will resign next month after finalizing Massachusetts' first rules to regulate medical marijuana use, according to the Boston Globe.

As for reasons of her decision, Smith offered none. The only allusion to it came as she said that she “wants to take some time to rest.”

“[Her departure] It will also give John Polanowicz [the state's public health secretary] the opportunity to assemble his own team," Smith said.

In an email to her staff, Smith confessed that the last months “have been difficult” for the department and “those of us who care deeply about this agency’s work in public health.”

Smith has found herself in hot water following last fall's deadly national meningitis outbreak, traced to a pharmacy in Framingham, Mass., that was regulated by the agency.

The department has since been under heavy scrutiny and, Smith, a childhood health specialist who had been the department's medical director since 2007, has now, it seems, met with her time-to-move-on point.

Even as the meningitis outbreak scandal unfolded, red flags were raised over allegation of mishandling of drug evidence by a chemist at a drug laboratory use by the department – which put thousands of criminal cases at risk.

Smith came in to replace John Auerbach, who left his six years job as the heat brought by the lab investigations intensified.

According to her statement, Smith’s last day in the agency will be May 10, two days after regulators are scheduled to vote on proposed medical marijuana rules.

Polanowicz, in a note to department workers, praised Smith’s work and said he has "launched a search for a successor to take over as commissioner in the near future," but did not specify when he expects to name Smith's replacement.

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