Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, Louisville health leader, dies ‘unexpectedly’
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The associate medical director of Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness, Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, died unexpectedly this week, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer confirmed. She was 36.
The circumstances surrounding Hartlage’s death are not immediately clear, but in a statement, Fischer called her passing “unexpected.”
“The Louisville Metro Government team and our city’s health community are heartbroken to hear of the passing of Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage,” Fischer said in a statement. “Dr. Hartlage will be remembered in our community as a deeply compassionate, inspirational leader who made a switch to public health in the middle of a historic public health crisis, and took command of an amazing team of city workers and volunteers to vaccinate tens of thousands of people in a previously unthinkably short amount of time, while also working to ensure vaccines are being distributed equitably throughout the community and communicating facts about their safety in relatable ways to non-medical professionals. LouVax and our community’s wider vaccine efforts have saved countless lives and will long be celebrated as one of the city’s signature achievements, and with it Dr. Hartlage’s central role and leadership. Our thoughts are with her family and the colleagues and volunteers who worked so closely with her.”
Hartlage helped spearhead COVID vaccination efforts in Louisville during the height of the pandemic. Chief Medical Officer at UofL Health, Dr. Jason Smith, said he met Hartlage when she was a resident at the University of Louisville.
“It is hard to quantify what she has meant to this community over the past two years, really,” Smith said. “She directly affected tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives across this community over the past two years.”
Hartlage was born in Alabama and always had a passion for science, according to the city. She earned her master’s degree at Tulane University before she came University of Louisville for her anesthesiology residency at UofL. Then, she worked as an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology before she was named the Associated Medical Director for the city.
Smith said Hartlage was an advocate for everyone. She quickly became a centerpiece for women in medicine when she worked as a key figure at the LouVax sites, a hub for vaccines in 2021. Supporting health equity, Hartlage stood up and spoke out to help those of all walks of life get the care they needed.
“It is hard to quantify what she has meant to this community over the past two years, really,” Smith said. “She directly affected tens, of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives across this community over the past two years.”
Smith said she was also always a selfless leader, and her professional partners looked to her to pave the way forward with the LouVax model. Partners from the Kentucky Nurses Association also worked closely with Hartlage.
“Her spirit, in general, was a can do spirit,” Delanor Manson, CEO of the Kentucky Nurses Association said. “If there is a problem, then there is a way we can find a solution. If we don’t come up with a solution, it is only because we haven’t come up with it yet.”
Mason said she was known as the “data queen.”
“She was the person we would call the data queen, getting all the numbers of vaccines, hospitalizations, and ventilators,” Manson said. “She would put that all in perspective, about how we were addressing the pandemic, and the type of things we needed to do today, next week, and moving forward. I would say she was an excellent data manager.”
Mason said she believes her fight to find a solution to the pandemic in Louisville paid off.
“There would be no good time for her to die,” Manson said. “However, her work is almost done in terms of the things we needed to do to keep our community safe.”
Dr. Sarah Moyer, the director of LMPDH, expressed heartbreak over Hartlage’s death on behalf of the department.
“We are stunned and deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage,” Moyer said. “Our hearts and prayers are with her family as well as the many employees, partners and volunteers who have worked closely with her over the past two years. We are so grateful for the opportunity to have known and worked with her. As a result of her leadership, knowledge and planning, thousands of our Louisville residents received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.”
Fischer’s press office suggested in lieu of flowers that donations in Hartlage’s name be made to her charity I Heart Camille.
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