Jeanne F. Ayers was appointed in January 2011 to serve as assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health.
As assistant commissioner, Ayers [ā-yərz] is responsible for overseeing the department’s Health Improvement Bureau. This bureau includes the Community and Family Health Division, the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Division, the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health and the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives.
MDH is the state's lead public health agency, responsible for protecting, maintaining and improving the health of all Minnesotans. The department operates programs in disease prevention and control, health promotion, community public health, environmental health, health care policy, and regulation of health care providers.
The department employs about 1,400 staff members in the Twin Cities and in seven offices in Greater Minnesota.
Prior to her appointment, Ayers served as director of nursing and preventive services at the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service. In this role, she managed supervisors of clinical, preventive and occupational health services and assisted Boynton’s director in quality improvement, program development and financial management.
Ayers also served as program director of occupational health at Boynton, where she reviewed occupational health programs and developed program recommendations for the university’s 15,000 employees.
Ayers launched and has directed the Healthy Heartland Initiative. The initiative is sponsored by ISAIAH, a faith-based organization dedicated to social, racial and economic justice. The Healthy Heartland Initiative is a partnership of six community organizations in Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota dedicated to building capacity and leadership to affect public policy to assure health equity and healthy communities.
As the founding executive director of the Center for Public Health Education and Outreach at the School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, she was responsible for strategic vision, goals, objectives and operations, including development of the overall organizational and financial infrastructure.
Her former positions also include director of continuing professional education at HealthPartners’ Institute for Medical Education; Continuing Education director of the Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety; director of Continuing Medical Education, Regions Hospital; and manager of Occupational Health at Columbia Park Medical Group and St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth. She served as a public health nurse in Kanabec County and as site supervisor of the Migrant Health Program in Bird Island, Minn.
Ayers’ community activities include working with community groups and broad-based community organizers to deepen the public understanding of the social determinants of health and their relationship to race, place and class. She has focused her efforts on building the public will for policy decisions that will assure that the conditions necessary for health are present for all. She was selected as the 2010 University of Minnesota Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award winner for her work on health and racial equity.
Assistant Commissioner Ayers earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in nursing, with a minor in psychology, from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. She also served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.