A Legacy of Public Health Leadership by Utah Family Physicians

Utah Academy of Family Physicians congratulates two members and leaders, Dr. Marc Babitz and Dr. Sarah Woolsey, for their public health leadership in Utah. Dr. Babitz will retire from the Utah Department of Health after a lengthy career of service to the community and family medicine profession. Dr. Babitz has had a prolific career in medicine and public health, recognized for his outstanding achievements and contributions to healthcare locally and nationally.

Dr. Marc Babitz and Dr. Sarah Woolsey

Dr. Babitz served for 15 years at the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) as the Division Director of the Division of Health Systems Improvement from 2005–2009, Division Director of the Division of Family Health and Preparedness from 2009-2016, and most recently as the department deputy director from 2016-2020. Prior to joining UDOH he served as faculty at University of Utah School of Medicine from 1994–2008 where he was an outspoken advocate for the specialty of family medicine and a teacher and mentor for countless future family physicians. Babitz also worked for the U.S. Public Health Service and National Health Service Corps (NHSC) from 1975-1994 in rural family medicine in a medically underserved community in northern California. He also served as Chief Medical Officer for the NHSC in Rockville, MD, and then as a Regional Clinical Coordinator in Denver, CO. 

Dr. Babitz has served in many capacities on boards and committees including the Chair of the Utah Physicians Licensing Board, the Treasurer and President of the Utah Academy of Family Physicians, a NHSC Ambassador, and Speaker of the House of Delegates for the Utah Medical Association.

Dr. Sarah Woolsey will take over Dr. Babitz’s responsibilities as the Division Director of the Division of Family Health and Preparedness this month. Dr. Woolsey was the Medical Director for Systemwide Quality Improvement for Comagine Health (formerly HealthInsight) 2010-2021, and from 2000-2017 was a full-spectrum family physician with CHC, Inc., serving as their Associate Medical Director from 2005-2010. Dr. Woolsey has received awards from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services as an Innovation Advisor in 2012 and was recognized by Association for Utah Community Health with their Innovation and Success in Quality Improvement Award in 2014. She received the Miguel Silva Leadership Award, Utah Department of Health Tobacco Control and Prevention Program in 2019. She serves in the AAFP Commission of Quality and Practice was the UAFP President from 2014-2016 and a dedicated board member from 2011-2020.

Dr. Woolsey was a resident physician at the University of Utah under Dr. Babitz’s tutelage from 1997-2000 and she recalls his “Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC)” lecture that preceded her intern year rural rotation. “I still have the dark green booklet he used to teach the class,” says Woolsey. COPC emphasizes the importance of knowing a local community’s needs, health challenges, and to make individualized solutions in one’s practice as a family doctor to make a real difference. “That was the kind of doctor I wanted to be,” says Woolsey. Dr. Babitz inspired Dr. Woolsey in her career in public health, and she worked with him during her Master of Public Health internship in 2015. “I wanted to see how a physician, and specifically a family physician worked in public health, and had always admired Dr. Babitz for his leadership of community health informed by his time as a small-town family doctor.”

Best wishes to two outstanding UAFP leaders!