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Ralph Van Houten, MS

Regional Director of Environmental Health; Western Region Office

New York State Department of Health

Rochester, NY 14604-2127



Ralph Van Houten is currently the Director of Environmental Health and the Acting Assistant Regional Director for the Western Region Office of the New York State Department of Health. He is the building manager for the Rochester Office, which is the home office to eighty-five State Health Department employees, and also has direct oversight of the Region’s Health Emergency Preparedness Program and Office of Professional Medical Conduct.


Mr. Van Houten holds degrees in Environmental Science, Geology and Environmental Management. Mr. Van Houten began his career with the State of Vermont, where he was responsible for water and wastewater facilities in Addison, Bennington and Rutland counties. He then became Director of Environmental Health with the Livingston County Department of Health in New York. After ten years of service with Livingston County, he joined the New York State Department of Health in 2000, where he guides the technical assistance and oversight of the environmental health programs of local health departments and state district offices for the seventeen counties in Western New York. In this capacity he has emphasized a collaborative approach, providing the best possible customer service with an understanding of the competing tasks that face LHD professionals each and every day.


Leadership Development Opportunities

The past year with the EPHLI has represented an outstanding personal experience. I have learned a great deal, especially through my mentor, Tim Murphy, and all the members of Murphy’s Law, our leadership team. Murphy’s Law has developed into a close-knit group, and we now share experiences and seek input on professional matters outside of the scope of the EHPLI project and assignments.


Working through the Leadership Project has resulted in a detailed review of a problem and for consideration of unintended consequences. Subsequent to this experience, I now review problems with an enhanced awareness of the unintended consequences and seek interventions which represent more than just a short term fix. I also seek staff and stakeholder input at the beginning stages of a project or initiative; this has already yielded more support with final action plans.


Seeing the benefits of participating in EPHLI, I have encouraged staff that I work with to consider less-traditional learning opportunities. With succession planning in mind, I have recommended two young professionals within the Western Region NYSDOH to apply for future cohorts of the EPHLI.