Dr. Ulder Tillman Credit: Via Montgomery Community Media

Dr. Ulder Tillman, Montgomery County’s top health officer for 13 years, died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm Tuesday, county officials said.

Tillman, 67 and a Rockville resident, went into medicine to work in public health, said Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county health department.

“What I valued most in her is that she always had this ability to explain complex health issues in a way that the average person could understand. She was quiet and calm and understated, but she was able to get the message across,” said Anderson, who noted that Tillman was otherwise in good health.

As health officer, Tillman oversaw the county’s public health system, as well as the expansion of programs that serve the uninsured: the Montgomery Cares network of nonprofit health clinics and the Care for Kids program.

Over the years, Tillman described to the public the dangers of such health issues as Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and lead in the water. She was the spokeswoman about studies on cancer clusters, or the urgency to reduce infant mortality.

County Executive Ike Leggett said in a statement that Tillman was “well recognized and appreciated for her calm presence during public health emergencies and her ability to explain complex medical issues to the public in very understandable terms.”


He described Tillman as “a wise and ardent champion of public health. She spearheaded expansion of the Montgomery Cares network of nonprofit health clinics serving the uninsured and provided solid leadership in public health emergencies, including the Ebola and Zika viruses.”

County Council President Roger Berliner and County Council member George Leventhal, who chairs the council’s Health and Human Services Committee, released a joint statement on Tillman’s death. “Dr. Tillman was a leader in all facets of her vital and demanding job,” the statement said. “… She was dedicated to finding ways to reduce health disparities and to Healthy Montgomery’s community health improvement process.”

Anderson recalled a Lyme disease prevention press conference that Tillman attended six or seven years ago. Tillman arrived dressed as she urged others to dress to avoid the ticks that cause Lyme disease: pants tucked into socks, long sleeves, a hat and little exposed skin.


Tillman also took the lead one year when the county didn’t have enough flu vaccine and the available shots were being distributed through a lottery by explaining the process to residents, Anderson said.

Prior to joining the county Department of Health and Human Services, Tillman served as chief of community health services at the Delaware Division of Public Health and as director of health for the city of Waterbury, Connecticut, according to the county. She was a graduate of Harvard University’s School of Medicine and received a master’s degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.