At a Porter County Board of Health meeting this week, Porter County Health
Officer Dr. Gary Babcoke informed the board his intention to retire from the
position effective June 30.
“It has been a distinct honor to serve the citizens of Porter County as
their health officer for the past thirty-three years. I have been privileged
to work with dedicated health board members and extraordinary talented and
committed health department staff,” said Dr. Babcoke in a statement released
While serving as health officer, Babcoke held a practice with the
Westchester Medical Group in Chesterton as a family practitioner.
Babcoke said he has seen significant changes since replacing the county’s
first health officer, Dr. Eugene DeGrazia, in 1978.
Some of those changes and accomplishments include: computerization of health
department, upgraded professional health staff qualifications including
separate food service and environmental oversight, implementation of
tuberculosis testing program and clinic, initiating HIV/STD testing and
counseling and treatment program, creation of pregnancy testing and the
prenatal care program, initiation of child lead screening and treatment
program, creation of countywide HAZMAT team and first environmental
coordinator position, starting a water sampling program at public beaches
and landfills, expansion of child immunization program to include adult and
travelers and provided 50,000 immunizations in 2010, and encouraged
cooperation with the county plan commission in integrating health department
building lot approvals.
Many of these changes and programs in the county were among the first in the
Babcoke also assisted in opening of the Portage Health Department Office and
the startup of Hilltop and North Shore Medical Clinics.
“It has been my privilege to oversee the health department adjustments to
those changes and public health challenges. As I retire from the Health
Officer position, I am confident that the health department staff is well
positioned to meet the public health challenges of the future,” said Babcoke.
While practicing medicine, Babcoke served as a colonel in the U.S. Army and
was part of the Indiana National Guard for 27 years beginning in 1978.
Earning his medical degree in 1961, he first began practicing medicine in
Gary in 1963 and made the move to Porter County about ten years later. He
was initially appointed to the county board of health in 1976 and has been
actively involved in the Indiana Association of Public Health Positions.
Current members of the health board said Babcoke has had great availability
and always found him reachable whenever they needed his opinion or advice.
Babcoke told the board he has seen a mix of good things and bad things
throughout his tenure and thanked the support given to him by the health
board, the county commissioners, and the county council.
“It’s so prideful to be part of this process,” Babcoke said to the board on
Health Board Chairman Martin Moeller said the department has achieved
preeminent status and is highly regarded and respected throughout Indiana.
“Dr. Babcoke has lead by example and has built a professional staff
steadfast in its commitment to preserving highest public health standards.
As only the second Porter County Health Officer, it is hard to think of the
department under anyone else’s leadership,” said Moeller in a statement.
“I know that all the citizens of Porter County join me in expressing our
sincere gratitude and appreciation for his years of dedicated public
Babcoke told the Chesterton Tribune he is sincerely looking forward to his
retirement but will continue to work part time in Urgent Care.
The health board is now soliciting résumés from qualified individuals
interested in serving as the Porter County Health Officer. Résumés should be
directed to Board of Health Chairman Martin Moeller in care of the Porter
County Health Department, 155 Indiana Avenue, Suite 104, Valparaiso, IN,
46383. Résumés will be accepted through Feb. 28
The health board intends to hire a new health officer at its meeting
scheduled for May 3.
The successful candidate would start employment as of June 1, allowing a
thirty day overlap prior to Dr. Babcoke’s retirement on June 30. The
candidate will then assume the duties as county health officer on July 1.