CHICAGO, Ill. (WMBD) — After leading Illinois through a deadly pandemic, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike is stepping down.

Gov. JB Pritzker made the announcement during a press conference on Tuesday. Pritzker went on to say she attended 161 press conferences with him and was a, “beacon of stability for millions during a time of tremendous uncertainty.”

Her last day will be March 14.

“She will go down in the history books as a woman who changed our lives for the better. She saved many, many lives,” he said.

The day was then officially declared Dr. Ngozi Ezike Day.

Speaking about her choice to step down, Ezike was emotional as she reflected on her time at IDPH. Since January 2019, she has served as the director after being hand-picked by Pritzker himself.

Ezike said she had no idea what she was getting into when she took the job as the full force of the pandemic was unknown, but she was dedicated to doing what was necessary to keep residents safe.

“I cannot say enough to Gov. Pritzker for the honor and privilege that you have afforded me. This incredible opportunity has been the pinnacle of my career thus far,” she said.

She went on to praise the team she worked alongside at IDPH, saying they all leaned on each other for support during the pandemic.

“Being a half-full kind of gal, I am focusing on all the positive actions of so many private citizens and so many private stakeholders who have helped us get through these tough times,” she said.

Ezike then spoke directly to her family and promised to spend more time with them following her departure from IDPH.

Amaal Tokars, the assistant director at IDPH will take over in the interim while a replacement for Ezike is sought.

Ezike is a board-certified internist and pediatrician who previously worked for healthcare systems in Cook County.

She graduated from Harvard University, the University of California, the San Diego School of Medicine, and is a Certified Correctional Health Professional and Diplomat of both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics.

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