Surgeon General Ladapo receives 52% raise

By Jeffrey Schweers, Capital Bureau USA TODAY NETWORK, Oct 12, 2021

Florida’s new Health Secretary, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, will make $362,000 a year — his combined pay from the Department of Health and the University of Florida, where he is a professor of general internal medicine.

Ladapo’s salary marks a $123,000 bump over that of his more experienced predecessor, Scott Rivkees, during his tenure. The position also holds the titles of surgeon general and state health officer.

It’s also about $50,000 more than the $319,000 a year Ladapo made as a research professor at the University of California Los Angeles. Ladapo holds controversial views outside the mainstream of the medical community on vaccinations and masking, but those views are in line with Gov. Ron DeSantis. When it first hired Ladapo on Sept. 20, the UF College of Medicine announced it would pay Ladapo $262,000 a year, with the expectation that the state would contribute a large portion of that salary as compensation for his time at the DOH, UF Health spokesman Ken Garcia said.

At the time, however, Garcia was unable to confirm how much the state would be contributing.

Uncertainty over Ladapo’s salary was cleared up with the release late Friday of the employee interchange contract between UF and the Department of Health for his services, provided under a public records request filed by the USA TODAY Network–Florida. The request was made Sept. 24, three days after the contract was signed.

Under the agreement, the DOH is paying UF $37,500 each quarter or $150,000 a year.

“This is a contribution and not in addition to his UF salary,” Garcia said via email Monday.

The state is paying an additional $100,000 a year directly paying Ladapo, DOH spokeswoman Weesam Khoury said. That brings the total DOH is contributing to $250,000 a year, the most allowed for that position under raises for agency heads recently approved by the Florida Legislature.

Florida law authorizes the governor to enter into employee interchange agreements with a public institution of higher learning to fill appointed offices in the executive branch. The surgeon general serves at the pleasure of the governor and must be confirmed by the state Senate. DeSantis is the first governor since the surgeon general position was created under Charlie Crist to select surgeon generals who were simultaneously professors at state universities.

Ladapo graduated from Harvard Medical School in 2008, after brief stints at the Food and Drug Administration and New York University. He was an associate professor in residence at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine since 2016 when DeSantis tapped him to replace Rivkees.

The contract between UF and the DOH is similar to the one for Rivkees, who was also a professor at UF College of Medicine.

Rivkees, who received his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and has a post-doctoral degree in neuroscience

from Harvard, has over 40 years of experience in medicine and academia. He was chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UF from 2012 until his appointment as surgeon general in 2019.

Rivkees’ contract with the state ended Sept. 20. He received $239,000 a year, with $140,000 a year coming from the state. It was a considerable cut from his previous salary of $547,000 a year at UF, where he held several positions, including chairman of pediatrics. Rivkees had made few public appearances since last April (2020). That’s when he was pulled out of a press briefing at the Capitol after saying people would probably need to wear masks until a COVID-19 vaccine could be created and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Ladapo is now the second surgeon general and state health officer to serve under DeSantis. Like his predecessor, Ladapo will split his duties 20-80 between UF and DOH.

Neither Rivkees, a pediatric endocrinologist, nor Ladapo, a cardiovascular specialist, are trained in epidemiology, virology or public health.

Yet Ladapo has written volumes on the subject. The Harvard Medical School grad has written over a dozen articles in the Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, and the New York Daily News expressing views that are controversial and antithetical to those of the medical mainstream.

 Image Credits: Lawrence Mower