OSDH announces new director of Public Health Lab same day lawmaker announces bill that would avoid moving state assets without legislative input

Dr. Michael Kayser

The state health department on Thursday announced the new director of the Oklahoma Pandemic Center of Innovation and Excellence and Public Health Lab as Dr. Michael Kayser, a D.O. who has worked on both the clinical and research sides of the medical field.

The Center was announced as a new initiative in October by Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office, which will combine with the already established Public Health Lab at a new location in Stillwater.

In December, OSDH contracted with Prairie One Solutions to manage the lab. A temporary space has been leased for the lab, but there are also plans to create a new facility out of almost $60 million in bond money allocated by the state legislature in 2017.

The movement of the lab, especially because it was announced as a unilateral decision by Stitt’s administration, drew some criticism from state lawmakers. About an hour before Kayser was announced as the new director of the Center, a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives announced filing legislation “to create accountability and transparency regarding the movement of state assets.”

Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) is proposing a bill to specify no state asset could be moved more than 10 miles from its location on July 1, 2020, without state legislature approval.

Martinez criticized the Public Health Lab announcement in October, and on Thursday re-emphasized that the move had no legislative input.

“State assets, which can be valued in the millions of dollars, should only be moved through the publicly transparent legislative process,” Martinez said in the release. “This gives Oklahoma citizens the opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions to the people they’ve elected to represent them in state government before major decision are made that affect their livelihoods and tax dollars.”

Kayser has a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and a doctorate from the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“I am thrilled to serve in such an instrumental role for this innovative and groundbreaking facility,” Kayser said through a news release. “The OPCIE is the future of health sciences and effective public health response. It’s an honor to serve Oklahoma in this capacity, and I look forward to leading our state to the forefront of national pandemic preparedness and response.”

He has worked with the National Human Genome Research Institute in Washington, D.C. He worked at St. Francis Children’s Hospital, and most recently, with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

“Dr. Kayser has an impressive and extensive background in advancing critical scientific research to mitigate the burden diseases impose on society,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in a release. “With his years of experience in advancing newborn screening in the clinical setting and knowledge of the laboratory setting, he is a rare combination. We believe that he is a great fit to lead the OPCIE and Public Health Lab, and will advance innovative research in our state to serve Oklahomans.”

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