Dr. Travis Gayles resigned last month from his position as Montgomery County’s Chief of Public Health Services to join a startup in San Francisco.
Gayles will be the new Chief Health Officer of Hazel Health, a company offering telehealth services to K-12 schools to improve children’s access to health care.
Children’s health is something Gayles describes as one of the “hallmarks” of his career. “I hope folks can see that it’s been something that has been important to me since my undergraduate career,” said Gayles.
Gayles served Montgomery for four years and left for his new post on September 12. “I have been blessed and privileged to be in this position because I’ve also had the opportunity to give voice to a lot of issues,” Gayles said.
A native of Chase City, VA., Gayles attended Duke University for his undergraduate degree. Before his position in Montgomery, he served as the Chief Medical Officer for the D.C. Department of Health.
During his time in Montgomery, Gayles was one of the faces of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of his decisions as a leading health official faced pushback from colleagues and sparked derogatory comments from residents. One of the most recent incidents occurred last month when Gayles received a racially motivated email.
“It’s just disgusting to see that, you know. It becomes so personal when all you are trying to do is keep people safe and keep their best interest at heart,” Gayles said.
Gayles explained the email was one of the many incidents he has endured during his career. “Constantly being exposed to those types of threats, insults and behavior is exhausting and it does take its toll,” he said. Although, Gayles was adamant the behavior did not influence his decision to resign.
During the pandemic, Gayles advocated for equitable distribution of COVID-19 testing and vaccines, prioritizing more vulnerable communities. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Gayles worked to address health inequities in the state including infant mortality.
Throughout his time in Montgomery, Gayles tried to use his “space at the table...to give voice to a lot of those folks who haven’t historically been able to have access to those places.”