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Our History

Florida Department of Health in Indian River County

  •  (772) 794-7400

    Mailing Address

    1900 27th Street 

    Vero Beach, FL 32960 


    TTY users can contact us through Florida Relay by dialing 711 or one of the other Relay Toll Free numbers. 

Our History Over the Decades
County Board of Health and Sanitation – Department of Health
Courtesy of Dr. C. C. Flood, Health Director and Alice Helleso, Public Health Nurse

(Excerpts taken from Florida’s Hibiscus City Vero Beach, by J. Noble Richards, Author)

Indian River County was originally formed by a division of St. Lucie County.  In 1925, the Federation of Senior Woman’s Clubs sponsored the hiring of Lelia M. Bunkley as both a public health nurse and county welfare worker.  The main office was located in the County Courthouse, and immunizations were given from the local schools.  District Public Health doctors periodically came from Jacksonville, FL to assist.

By 1942, Dr. Wilson T. Sowder came to Indian River County and opened a Venereal Disease Clinic in a little building located on the corner of 13th Avenue and 19th Place.  Miss Bunkley then moved her clinic there.  A District Public Health Nurse from Jacksonville, FL helped with the programs. In 1944, Miss Bunkley became ill, and Mrs. Alice Helleso took over her duties.  She continued the Venereal Disease program, in which there were 800 cases under treatment at that time.  She was given a part-time clerk, Margaret Roberts Meeks.  The State also had a V. D. worker covering two counties who did follow-up work.  Dr. P. T. McClellan worked with the clinic, and Tom Miller was the Sanitarian. In the following year, Indian River County residents faced a Typhoid outbreak, which was traced to contaminated oysters.  A woman doctor with the Navy helped with immunizations and when necessary, went into the homes to perform this service.  Immunization services were generally still performed throughout the local schools.  

At that time, a Tuberculosis program had been instigated and an x-ray unit would visit every two years.  Health cards were issued by Dr. McClellan with the help of the Public Health Nurse. The Kiwanis Club commenced its program of aid with tonsillectomies for the indigent, along with milk.  The Rotary Club developed a vision program for screening and provided eyeglasses for needy children. The Woman’s Club sponsored immunization for infants and pre-schoolers, and encouraged mothers to have their post-partum examinations. These services aided in the development of cancer detection. Classes were given to midwives, as there were seven practicing in Indian River County at that time. Classes were also given for expectant mothers.

In 1946, a District Public Health Office was established in the Simmons’ Building on the second floor. Dr. Sidney Williams was the District Health Officer; Tom Miller, the District Sanitarian; Cleo McLaughlin, the District Public Health Nurse; and Marion Stough was the clerk. The District office served up and down the east coast. By 1947, Dr. J. B. Hall organized a countywide public health council and through this council, started a two-county health unit with St. Lucie as the headquarters.  The following year, Okeechobee came into this unit. The Indian River unit had an office at the Air Base.  Alice Helleso was the Supervising Nurse for the three counties; Mary Poole was in the local clinic, while Miss Verna McGhee was in the St. Lucie unit.  There were 600 V. D. cases in Indian River County at that time. By 1948, J. Ross Hague became the Health Officer.

In 1951, Kip G. Kelso became the Health Officer, and he and Alice Helleso worked on plans for a new building, which was built at 2535 14th Ave.  (St. Lucie Ave.).  Gene Hadden was the Sanitarian at this time and Deward Howard, District Engineer, had his office with the unit. In 1953, Ben F. Wyman became the Health Officer, and Bob Jennings was Sanitarian. Unfortunately, in 1955, Mary Poole became sick, and Verna McGhee moved into the Indian River unit, where she is still a Public Health Nurse.  The staff then increased to three nurses. By 1957, Neill D. Miller was the Health Officer.  The unit was now comprised of four counties (Martin County had joined). In 1959, a two-county unit was formed with Osceola, and Indian River became the headquarters.  Dr. C. C. Flood became the Health Officer of this new unit.  There were now 5 Public Health Nurses, 2 Sanitarians, 1 ½ Clerks, and the District Engineer, Richard Starr.

In 1964, Alice Helleso retired due to illness. In 1965, the new Health Department building was opened in July at 2525 -14th Ave.  Dr. Flood was still Health Officer and Dorothy Murch was Nursing Supervisor. There were 5 Nurses on staff, 2 Clerks, 2 Sanitarians, and 1 Medicare Clerk. At this time, the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) was created.  Indian River County Public Health Unit was part of District 9—Palm Beach, Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee.Dr. Flood then retired, and Cindy Lookabaugh was appointed Health Officer for approximately 2 months. Billy Hammill became the Nursing Director.  Mike Galanis became the Environmental Health Director and served as acting Health Officer.

By 1983, Dr. Tucker was appointed Health Officer, and Trudy Maurer was Nursing Director. In August of 1986, the department lost Dr. Tucker to a tragic car accident.  As a result, Mike Galanis once again began serving as acting Health Officer. However, in 1987, Dr. Bernard Berman was appointed as the new Health Officer.  He served until his retirement in December of 1994.

In 1991, the Health Department moved into our current building on 27th Street.  Jean Kline joined the staff as Nursing Director. HRS District 15 (Martin, Indian River, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee) was formed and headquartered in Ft. Pierce, FL. With Dr. Berman’s retirement on December 31, 1994, Jean Kline, RN was asked to serve as acting Administrator and Dr. John Witte, Deputy District Administrator of Health, was asked to serve as acting Director.  On December 12, 1995, the Secretary of HRS appointed Jean Kline the health department’s Administrator and Health Officer.  In the following year, Dr. David Holtzclaw was named Medical Director.  Michele Kiesel came on board as Nursing Director in December of 1996. In 1997, HRS was split into the Department of Health and Department of Children and Families.  In 2006, Miranda Hawker, Assistant Director of Indian River County Health Department, was appointed as the Health Officer for Indian River County Health Department. Currently, our Management staff consists of:

Miranda Hawker, MPH, Health Officer
Gloria Ryan, MD, Interim Medical Executive Director
Cheryl Dunn, RD, Environmental Health Manager
Rose Parker, RN, Nursing Director
Mayur Rao, Business Manager
Leigh Anne Uribe, Human Services Program Manager

View our organizational chart.