Amy Acton in 2019
|Director of the Ohio Department of Health|
|Assumed office |
Amy Leigh Stearns
Acton was born Amy Stearns and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, living "in 18 different places in a 12-year period, including in a tent when she was homeless." She described in a 2019 interview being neglected and abused while she lived with her mother following her parents' divorce. During high school she lived with her father in a more stable environment and at Liberty High School was a member of the National Honor Society and Homecoming queen. She earned a medical degree from Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in 1990 and a master's in public health from The Ohio State University. She served residencies at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Acton taught at Ohio State University as an associate professor of public health. She worked at the Columbus Foundation as a grants manager. She was director of Project LOVE (Love Our kids, Vaccinate Early).
In February of 2019, Ohio governor Mike DeWine made her his final cabinet pick as director of the Department of Health. The search process was lengthy, as DeWine had been determined to have the right person in charge in a crisis. Acton is the first woman in the post. The two previous incumbents were a lawyer and a marketing director; DeWine mentioned wanting to "rethink how we approach this department".
In 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, Acton advised Governor Mike DeWine, who became the first governor in the nation to shut down schools and limit gatherings to no more than 100 people, despite the fact Ohio at the time had only 3 confirmed cases. Ohio was also the first state to shut down bars and restaurants, done at a point when Ohio had fewer than 40 confirmed cases. Acton soon after estimated that Ohio's then 5 confirmed cases likely translated to 100,000 actual cases, making national news. In mid-March, she predicted cases could peak in late April to mid-May.
On March 12, she predicted of the coronavirus pandemic that "This will be the thing this generation remembers." Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes called her "the real MVP of Ohio’s coronavirus response." The Dayton Daily News called her "Ohio's trusted face during the pandemic."
Acton was key in the decision to postpone Ohio's 2020 primary and issues election, which was slated for March 17, 2020. The day before the scheduled election, Governor DeWine declared it canceled, only for a judge to rule that he did not have the authority to do so. Acton then ordered polling places closed due a public health emergency. It was later determined that the election would be conducted entirely by mail-in absentee ballot for those who had not participated in early voting.
In March 2020, Ohio T-shirt manufacturer Homage released a t-shirt that paid tribute to her.
She was previously married to Douglas Beech, with whom she had three children.