Doctors, public health skeptics, others apply to join Boise-area health board

The Central District Health board makes decisions about public health in Boise and beyond

By: - July 8, 2021 4:30 am
Central District Health sign

Central District Health offices, in West Boise, are the public health headquarters for Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties. (Audrey Dutton, Idaho Capital Sun)

The Ada County Commissioners will soon choose their next nominee for the board of Central District Health.

That board is tasked with making public health decisions for Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties. The health department’s goal is public health through efforts such as immunizations, infectious disease prevention, environmental health, restaurant inspections, child care inspections and community health programs.

The vacant seat was held by Dr. Ted Epperly, who leads the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho and whose term was not renewed.

State law says the health board must have a member who is a physician licensed by the Idaho Board of Medicine. There currently is no licensed physician on the board.

Ada County accepted applications through June 30. The commission hasn’t yet scheduled its meeting to interview applicants or choose the nominee, whose nomination would then go before the commissioners for each county in CDH.

Speak your mind

Want to submit a public comment? Here’s how to contact the Ada County commissioners.

Mail: 200 W. Front Street, 3rd Floor, Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 208-287-7000
Email: [email protected]

The county received applications from five people. This is what we know about them, based on their applications, websites, social media posts and interviews.

Dr. Sky Blue, infectious disease physician

Blue has been a physician with Sawtooth Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, a physician-owned independent practice that has locations in Boise and Nampa, since 2002. He also serves as medical director of the Family Medicine Health Center’s Wellness Center, which provides health care to patients with HIV/AIDS. Blue has lived in Ada County for 23 years. He received his doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree from the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Blue has been licensed in Idaho since 1997 by the Idaho Board of Medicine and has no disciplinary actions on his record.

Blue said in his application that he would bring to the board an “ability to relate to and collaborate with individuals of differing viewpoints,” an understanding of epidemiology, infectious diseases and 23 years of health care experience in Ada County and Idaho. He said he applied because of a “strong desire to use my talents and skills to serve my community.”

Blue previously applied in January to join the board, when Ada County Commissioner Ryan Davidson decided to nominate a new board member instead of serving on the board himself. At the time, Davidson and fellow commissioner Rod Beck favored former Congressman Raúl Labrador for the position and suggested Blue apply for the next opening.

In January, Blue told the Idaho Statesman that he didn’t see reopening Idaho’s economy and protecting people from COVID-19 as an “either/or” choice. “We do the best we can given our circumstances, and we say, ‘How can we keep people the safest in any circumstance?’” he said.

Protesters had been showing up to board meetings and to board members’ homes, angry about mask mandates and other public health measures.

“I live out in the country, and all our neighbors help out each other. When I see some of the discourse, I don’t really recognize that as our Idaho values,” Blue said then, according to the Idaho Statesman. “When you can discuss all the issues, we can come up with our best decisions.”

Dr. Ryan Cole, pathologist

Cole has been the CEO and medical director of Cole Diagnostics laboratory in Garden City since 2004. He has lived in Ada County for 18 years. He received his M.D. degree from the Medical College of Virginia, the medical school of the Virginia Commonwealth University. He has been licensed in Idaho since 2003 by the Idaho Board of Medicine and has no disciplinary actions on his record.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Cole began offering antibody tests through his laboratory, frustrated with the limited coronavirus diagnostic tests available. Cole Diagnostics later added COVID-19 PCR testing.

Since then, he has become a public figure in the COVID-19 truther movement — questioning public health guidance, recommended treatments and vaccines.

“The public health message is wrong,” he said in an interview Wednesday with the Idaho Capital Sun.

Cole gave a presentation during the 2021 legislative session to a group led by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. It went viral, introducing him to a wide audience of COVID-19 skeptics and “health freedom” groups.

Cole appeared last week in a video interview on Facebook. Among other things, he said vitamin D can help a person’s body fight off the coronavirus. There is some evidence of this. He also said proper nutrition, exercise, outdoor activity, weight management, not smoking or drinking excessively, and other healthy behaviors can help prevent severe illness, which is true for COVID-19 and in general.

But Cole also has shared misinformation, such as a debunked claim that the COVID-19 vaccine has killed thousands of people. It has not. He told the Sun on Wednesday that COVID-19 vaccines cause higher rates of miscarriage in the first trimester. The vaccines’ safety and efficacy for pregnant women is still being studied, but a review of more than 35,000 post-vaccination reports by pregnant women found neither a higher rate of miscarriage (typical rates are 10-26% and the post-vaccination rate was 12.6%) nor a disproportionate share in the first trimester (about 80% of all miscarriages occur in the first trimester, same as in the review).

He also has promoted the use of ivermectin for early treatment of COVID-19, going against guidance from the FDA, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization and public health advisory groups for the European Union, India and others.

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He believes the anti-parasite drug isn’t recommended for COVID-19 because it’s not profitable for the government and pharmaceutical companies — and that the health care establishment is harming people by not providing it as early treatment. The FDA has authorized other drugs and therapies, including antibodies for early treatment. Ivermectin is one of many drugs in clinical trials to determine if they can safely treat or protect against COVID-19. (So far, small studies with ivermectin have found mixed, inconclusive results.)

Cole told the Sun he personally has treated patients with ivermectin, including a telehealth patient in Washington this week and an 80-year-old local man to whom he prescribed ivermectin and inhaled steroids. He said they both recovered quickly. “I hear this time and time and time again,” he said.

Cole told the Sun that systems like CDH need “a voice of reason” to contradict the CDC, FDA or other public health agencies: “Somebody who can say, ‘Well, they’re saying this, but I’m seeing that.’”

In a recent post on social media, he dubbed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the “ministry of truth,” a reference to the ministry of propaganda from the George Orwell novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Cole told the Sun that was a tongue-in-cheek joke, reflecting his frustration with the changing guidance from the CDC.

“We’ve silenced smart people so that dumb people won’t be offended,” Cole said in his recent video interview. 

He said people should not “be manipulated by the forces that tell you, ‘You must be in lockstep with us and the way we think.’ It’s up to you as an individual to take control of your health. And you can pandemic-proof your mind and your body in those ways.”

Dr. Travis Kemp, orthopedic surgeon

Kemp is a self-employed orthopedic surgeon based in Meridian. He is part of the Direct Orthopedic Care practice. He grew up in Ada County and returned 12 years ago to practice medicine. He received his M.D. degree from New York Medical College. He has been licensed in Idaho since 2009 by the Idaho Board of Medicine and has no disciplinary actions on his record.

Kemp said in his application that he believes the CDH board’s public health decisions should be focused on promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing disease.

“I wish to be a board member at Central District Health to promote the health and well being of Idahoans,” he wrote. “This past year has been very difficult on all Idahoans. I feel that it is the right time in my life to start giving back to my community and to be more involved in my community’s health and well being.”

Leanna Moser, family nurse practitioner

Moser is a nurse practitioner at East to West Family Medicine in Boise. She has lived in Ada County for seven years. She received her graduate degree in nursing from Walden University, according to her LinkedIn profile. Before moving to the Treasure Valley, Moser worked as an emergency and trauma nurse at Antelope Valley Hospital in California from 2009 through 2013.

“I have also worked in research in the past as a subclinical investigator and understand how pharmaceutical industries and governing health care agencies function,” she wrote in her application. “My passion is now functional medicine and applying it to family practice, looking at the root cause of all presenting health issues, addressing prevention and wellness as well. I am a lifetime learner/researcher which is the posture I believe anyone active in medicine should have. I can also bring leadership and organizational skills being a practice owner for several years.”

Moser said in a video posted to YouTube that aluminum in vaccines can be toxic to children, which is inaccurate.

“I have a lot of families that want to follow the CDC schedule, and I just really push the detox plan after educating them,” she said in the video. “… I have parents who choose not to vaccinate at all, and I have parents who delay their vaccines,” she said, adding that aluminum in vaccines “can cause damage. It has been shown to also cause autistic effects.”

Dylan Roy, chiropractor

Roy is a chiropractor at Zao Chiropractic in Boise. He has lived in Ada County for two and a half years. He received a doctor of chiropractic degree from Cleveland University in Kansas. He has been licensed in Idaho since 2019 by the Idaho Board of Chiropractic Physicians and has no disciplinary actions on his record.

He said in his application that he would bring to the board, “Another voice, with more/different perspective on health and how to create better health.”

Roy’s website says his business is “part of a service sent by GOD. We are on a mission to bring health and healing to our community by providing a holistic approach (through) chiropractic care. We know that our bodies are natural innate self-healing beings, and our goal for every man, woman, and child is to function at their most optimal level without the use of drugs or surgery, through specific, scientific neurologically-based chiropractic care. Allowing them to live a CLEAR LIFE and start experiencing the world for what it is truly meant for.” 

His business profile on the Buy Idaho website says his focus is “finding the Root cause of people’s health concerns and correcting them at the source.” It says he takes patients ranging from newborns to grandparents, and pregnant women.

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Dutton hails from Twin Falls. She attended college at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.

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