Howard's gain

February 07, 2007

Peter L. Beilenson is one of those bright, high-energy types who seem destined for achievement.

During 13 years as public health commissioner for Baltimore, where poverty, drug addiction and violence add urgency to the task, Dr. Beilenson earned a national reputation for innovation and effectiveness on issues such as infant mortality, teen birth rates and AIDS.

Though a political novice, he made a surprisingly strong bid last year for Congress, falling short in a crowded field. Then he was considered a likely bet for the top health post in Gov. Martin O'Malley's new Cabinet.

So yesterday, when, on Dr. Beilenson's 47th birthday, he was named to take over the Health Department in comparatively sleepy Howard County, his career seemed to have taken a detour. But it might also be called a learning experience - and the citizens of the Howard County stand to benefit.

Dr. Beilenson can turn a bit from the urgent urban challenges, which are not yet prevalent in affluent Howard, to focus on preventive programs for chronic ailments, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Meanwhile, he can also continue to work toward ensuring that the public health system serves Maryland's growing ranks of uninsured.

One way or another, the doctor is in, and that's good news for the whole state.

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