Dr. Danny TK Avula has been picked to run Virginia’s Department of Social Services, which administers a number of programs, including Medicaid, adoption, child care assistance, refugee resettlement, Child and Adult Protective Services, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
In nominating Avula for DSS commissioner, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin selected a longtime public health physician who most recently led the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts while also serving as the health director of the Richmond city and Henrico county health departments. He was with Richmond/Henrico for 13 years.
Avula is quite familiar with the department he began running this month. He was picked by Youngkin’s Democratic predecessor to run the statewide coronavirus vaccination program, and former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe put him on the State Board of Social Services in 2013. He served as board chair from 2017 to 2019.
In December 2020, Richmond-based Style Weekly named Avula “Richmonder of the Year” and profiled him less than a year into the pandemic. He said he’d followed Dr. Anthony Fauci’s example in managing the pandemic in a way that was consistent and visible to the public.
“I feel like the institution of public health has had to do a lot of de-politicizing,” Avula told Style Weekly. “This is about real people and real lives and real health.”
According to the Department of Social Services, Avula’s specialization areas are pediatrics and preventive medicine. He’s continuing in his clinical practice as a pediatric hospitalist. He earned his medical degree from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, then completed residencies at VCU and Johns Hopkins University, where he also earned a Master of Public Health degree.