A leading advocate for health equity who once served as the state's health officer has been chosen as the new director of the Population Health Institute at UW-Madison.

Dr. Sheri Johnson, associate professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin will become director of the institute in January.

Johnson was administrator and state health officer at the Wisconsin Division of Public Health from 2005 to 2008, according to a UW-Madison release.

"Dr. Johnson is a passionate leader, with an incredible track record of addressing equity and obstacles to health, especially for under-resourced populations in Wisconsin," said Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health.

The Population Health Institute has been around in its current form since 2005, but has been part of the UW-Madison scene since 1984. It's primary mission is to translate research into policy and practice.

It's most well known for the County Health Rankings, a look at the health of nearly every county in the U.S. and the hows and whys about what makes a county healthy or sick.

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Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.