(Missoula Current) Missoula Public Health on Wednesday said its current director will be leaving his job at the end of February, ending a tenure nearly three years old.

In a press release, the department said Damian Chase-Begay announced his plans to leave last week to pursue a “new professional opportunity.” The department gave no other details and couldn't be immediately reached.

“When people ask me what my favorite part of this job is, I never hesitate to say it’s the people I work with,” Chase-Begay said in a statement. “The staff here are knowledgeable, dedicated, amazing people who do great work every day.”

Chase-Begay was hired in May 2021 to replace long-time health director Ellen Leahy, who led the department through the depths of the pandemic.

Chase-Begay began his tenure as director under the name D'Shane Barnett but later changed it. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, with an option in inequality and social justice from the University of Montana.

He also has a master’s degree in healthcare administration and, at the time of his hiring as director, he was completing his doctorate in public health at UM.

“(He) is leaving to pursue a new professional opportunity,” the department said in its announcement. “He is still finalizing this next professional step, and MPH will release additional information when it becomes available.”

The department said it will appoint an interim director before his final day, which is slated for Feb. 29.

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