Amherst Health Director Emma Dragon leaving after nine-month tenure


Staff Writer
Published: 7/20/2021 11:57:54 AM

AMHERST — A successful effort to vaccinate residents against COVID-19, including launching the first initiative in the state to inoculate the homebound at their residences, are among accomplishments for Emma Dragon over a nine-month tenure as Amherst’s health director.

Dragon, who came on board in November to replace Julie Federman following her retirement, leaves at the end of this month for an opportunity in nurse leadership, with the ability for continued professional growth, programming and development. 

“Being the public health director for the town of Amherst through the COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly rewarding and an honor,” Dragon said.

Dragon, a Hadley resident, will be replaced on an interim basis by long-time public health nurse Jennifer Brown, and a search will begin immediately, Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek said.

Dragon cited many accomplishments related to the pandemic, including participation in the Massachusetts COVID-19 Vaccination Program, purchasing vaccine storage capable of maintaining temperatures for five days, and then holding 132 clinics where 200 volunteers were recruited and trained and 12,609 clinic-based vaccines were administered.

A number of pop-up vaccine clinics also took place at apartment complexes, mobile food markets, and special events, like Juneteenth, along with four free mobile testing clinics last fall and early winter.

Going to 14 area towns, Dragon helped deliver vaccines to 308 homebound patients in collaboration with nurses and the Amherst Fire Department.

Outside of COVID-19, Dragon worked with the health board on bringing a mobile harm reduction program with Tapestry as the vendor, starting a community listening session to begin a community health assessment and identifying racism as a public health crisis.

Dragon also has sought a Public Health Excellence Grant that would benefit seven area towns and a Contact Tracing Support Grant for eight towns, and created a mosquito control plan while joining the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District. 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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