Nebraska lawmakers approve Dr. Timothy Tesmer as state chief medical officer

By: - May 31, 2023 6:56 pm

Dr. Timothy Tesmer testifies before the Health and Human Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to become the state’s chief medical officer on Thursday, May 25, 2023, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Legislature on Wednesday gave final approval to Dr. Timothy Tesmer as Nebraska’s next chief medical officer.

Lawmakers voted 29-11 to confirm Tesmer, who has been in an acting position since March 27. The Health and Human Services Committee advanced his nomination last Thursday on a 4-2 vote, with one senator not voting.

Tesmer, an ear, nose and throat specialist, has more than 35 years of experience, including establishing and operating a private practice in Lincoln. He previously practiced in Louisville, Kentucky; Springfield, Missouri; and Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Tesmer also served on the State Board of Health from 2020 to March of this year, most recently as chair, and received degrees from Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The Nebraska Medical Association wrote a letter in support of Tesmer, submitted to the Health Committee by Daniel Rosenquist, the NMA president.

The medical association’s letter states that Tesmer’s “distinguished career as a physician, his involvement in the medical community and his service on the Board of Health demonstrate his commitment to the health care field and the health of Nebraskans.”

The letter adds that the NMA had the opportunity to observe Tesmer’s approach to policy during his time on the State Board of Health, which included seven different credentialing review processes.

“Throughout these processes, Dr. Tesmer has demonstrated a willingness to listen and consider the concerns of all stakeholders and to make fair decisions based on his responsibility to the health and safety of Nebraskans,” the NMA letter states. “The NMA expects Dr. Tesmer will continue to bring the same professionalism and medical expertise to his work as chief medical officer.”

Cavanaugh opposed appointment

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha, who led weeks-long filibusters this session against restrictions on gender-affirming care for minors, advocated against Tesmer’s appointment.

She pointed to Tesmer’s confirmation hearing last Thursday where Tesmer said he would personally be supportive of breast surgery for cisgender youths but not transgender youths. 

Cavanaugh blasted this as discriminatory because it treats one group differently from another.

“There is a reasonable argument against Dr. Tesmer and I hope that you all will consider that,” Cavanaugh said.

Tesmer will be required to set rules and regulations around puberty blockers and hormone therapies for gender-affirming care, with the Legislature’s approval of Legislative Bill 574, the bill related to restrictions on care for minors. 

The Nebraska Medical Association opposed LB 574.

While the chief medical officer will have the final say, Tesmer has stated those policies will be the result of a “multidisciplinary” team that includes gender care specialists.

He defended his position on surgeries to Cavanaugh by stating that while he has personal biases, as everyone does, he would set those aside in his position.

Drafting the policies, he added, will be evidence-based and within the scope of the law.

“I can assure you right here, right now, I can assure you that personal opinions will be put aside,” Tesmer told Cavanaugh last week. “This issue, this one issue, I hope doesn’t define the whole chief medical officer role.”

Nearly a dozen State Board of Health members, including Tesmer as its chair, penned a letter in March in support of LB 574 in its original form, which would have outlawed puberty blockers and hormones for transition care. 

Cavanaugh and others have also criticized Tesmer for this involvement.

Would leave out personal biases

State Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, chair of the Legislature’s Health Committee, said that the Legislature heard Cavanaugh’s concerns but that it’s not unusual for the Board of Health to issue statements regarding pending legislation.

The letter in support of LB 574 may have been done quicker than usual, Hansen told the Nebraska Examiner, with perhaps less clarity in the process, but it was “nothing nefarious.”

Hansen said he heard what he needed from Tesmer, including that he would need help in drafting the gender care rules and regulations and that he would leave his personal biases out of his work.

It remains to be seen what will exactly happen on Oct. 1 when the gender care restrictions go into effect if there are no rules and regulations surrounding puberty blockers and hormone therapies. Gender-affirming surgeries for minors will be banned at that point, and minors who previously started medications can continue. 

Hansen said on the floor he is working to confirm whether there would be any restrictions or a full ban on the transition medications at that point.

State Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston, a former hospital administrator, also supported Tesmer from the floor Wednesday.

“He’s up to the task,” Riepe said. “He’s a quality individual.”


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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a double major in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. He reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan before joining the Nebraska Examiner staff as an intern.