CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — A pioneering health care leader in West Virginia was honored posthumously Wednesday by a top White House official.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, the White House Drug Czar, is back visiting West Virginia this week, where he served in various public health roles. He also presented the first “Dr. Rahul Gupta Public Health Merit Award.”

The inaugural recipient was the late Paul Nusbaum, a former West Virginia DHHR Secretary who also served on the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department board. Paul was still consulting with the state on opioids and COVID-19 when he died in February. His son accepted the award on his behalf.

“Paul has been my mentor, day-in and day-out, every single day. If I had a problem or a question, I would call Paul,” said Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“He had a deep care for rural communities in West Virginia. He wanted to make sure the less fortunate could have access to health care,” said Michael Nusbaum, the son of the former DHHR secretary.

Paul served as DHHR Secretary under Gov. Bob Wise from 2001 through 2005. He was also a long-time hospital administrator. He passed away at the age of 71.