LITTLE ROCK — After a national search, the Arkansas Department of Human Services has given the job of state Medicaid director to the person who had been serving as interim director.

Dawn Zekis Stehle, 34, had been interim state Medicaid director since June 1, when former Medicaid Director Andy Allison left to pursue other opportunities, the agency said Monday in a news release.

Previously, Stehle was overseeing Medicaid’s effort to transform Arkansas’s health care payment system.

"Not only does Dawn have the experience of leading one of the most innovative Medicaid initiatives in the country, she also is a true team player who will value and empower her employees so that they will continue the successful transformation of the Medicaid system," DHS Deputy Director Janie Huddleston said.

DHS Director John Selig said, "We were looking for someone who was not only willing to be a pioneer in Medicaid, but also a person with a proven track record of success. Dawn has shown over and over again that she can tackle new tasks and turn innovative ideas into reality."

Stehle began her career with DHS in 2006 as a fellow working in Medicaid before being hired as a policy analyst in 2007. She was named policy and planning director in 2008 and director of health care innovation in 2012.

"I’m excited for the opportunity to lead such a remarkable team of employees," Stehle said. "Arkansas Medicaid would not be in the national spotlight without their hard work and dedication. Together we will build upon the momentum they’ve created and change the system for the better."

Stehle has a bachelor’s degree in biology and social work from the University of South Dakota and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas’s Clinton School of Public Service. She is completing her doctorate of public health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.