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Who is Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton?

The inspiring story behind the leader of Ohio's coronavirus response

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans have become very familiar with Dr. Amy Acton's clear and calm directives over the last few weeks.

Her regular afternoon press conferences alongside Governor Mike DeWine and other state officials have become must-see TV during this unprecedented time.

But her path to becoming the state's top public health official is probably not one you'd expect.

Born Amy Stearns in the Mahoning Valley, Acton's childhood was tough. In an August, 2019 interview with The Youngstown Vindicator, Acton spoke of years of abuse, neglect, and even a period of homelessness while living with her mother after her parents divorced.

"I have so many crazy stories. ... I spent so much time being scared as a kid, but also navigating the adult world," she said at the time. 

Acton has also mentioned her difficult childhood years during her coronavirus press conference updates.

By her high school years, Acton found stability living with her father. She was a member of the National Honor Society at Youngstown's Liberty High School and was also named homecoming queen during her senior year in 1984.

She has spoken of having an early interest in medicine - sparked by a childhood hospital visit. She went on to study pediatrics and preventative medicine at Northeastern Ohio University School of Medicine - now, a part of Youngstown State University,

She later received a masters degree in public health from The Ohio State University, where she later became a professor. That's where she got the call from the then newly-inaugurated Governor Mike DeWine. She became his final cabinet pick in February of 2019 - the first woman to hold the position of Director of Ohio's Public Health Department.

Acton is also a mother of six who is married to a middle school track coach. She's won over Ohioans of all walks of life by speaking with empathy - connecting with them by sharing her own personal stories.

Rep. Emilia Sykes (D), Minority Leader of the Ohio House shared her praise for Acton in this tweet:

And Columbus-based retailer Homage released a new shirt this week in her honor, proclaiming, "Not all heroes wear capes."

RELATED: Homage releases t-shirt paying tribute to Dr. Amy Acton

A fitting tribute for the strong woman in the white coat we're all turning to during these uncertain times.

Click here for our coronavirus section.

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