Eye On Illinois: New IDPH leader can raise profile of SIU medical, law schools


Gov. JB Pritzker this week nominated Dr. Sameer Vohra to be the new Department of Public Health director, subject to Senate confirmation.

Without making any value judgments on his suitability for the post, it’s worth nothing his background exceeds the Chicago bubble. Vohra is a practicing pediatrician in Springfield, and although he has an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Arts in public policy and pediatrics residency through the University of Chicago, he also earned law and medical degrees from Southern Illinois University, where he also works as associate professor of pediatrics.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

Hopefully state senators will ask Vohra about his recent work focusing on health outcomes in downstate communities along with the obvious questions about pandemic response. The IDPH has a mission far broader than just COVID-19 mitigation, and Vohra’s appointment has a chance to shed significant light on all the ways state government can influence quality of life while perhaps also raising the profile of academic institutions that infrequently find the spotlight.

WORTH THE WAIT? That question is appropriate following news of a six-month trial delay in a federal bribery case implicating Commonwealth Edison and former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. A federal judge rescheduled the trial from September to March because the only courtroom where it would fit is likely to be in use for another trial involving musician R. Kelly.

When it finally begins the trial could last two months. The light it sheds on Illinois corruption – dating to at least 2011 – could be blinding.

ON THIS DAY: Although April 22, 1856, witnessed the opening of the first Mississippi River railroad bridge, connecting Rock Island to Davenport, Iowa, construction began on this day in 1853. As with most things in that time, the project’s history is inextricable from the political schisms that led to the Civil War. In a 2004 National Archives essay on the bridge – available at archives.gov/publications/prologue/2004/summer/bridge.html – David Pfeiffer explained how Illinois lawmakers helped make history, resolving a despite between one company laying track east from Chicago and another building west toward Nebraska:

“Because the boundary between Illinois and Iowa was in the center of the main channel of the Mississippi River and both railroad’s charters differed on their legal origin and terminal points, special legislation and a new charter was necessary to unite the two railroads,” Pfeffier wrote. “The problem was solved by an act of the Illinois legislature in 1853 incorporating the Railroad Bridge Company with the power to ‘build, maintain and use a railroad bridge over the Mississippi River … in such a manner as shall not materially obstruct or interfere with the free navigation of said river.’ This condition would become a crucial point in future litigation.”

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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July 16, 2022 at 08:23AM

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