New Secretary of Health and Human Services Named
President-Elect Biden named new members of his senior health team this week, choosing the Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra, as Secretary of Health and Human Services. The choice was widely regarded as a surprise as Mr. Becerra was seen as being a candidate for Attorney General and does not have specialized experience on health care issues. However, as Attorney General in California, he has been among the leaders defending the Affordable Care Act and has further experience on the Ways and Means Committee and speaking out on behalf of women’s health when he was in Congress. He will be the first Latino to lead the Department. The Academy has worked with Mr. Becerra on health care issues when he was representing Los Angeles in the House of Representatives from 1993 – 2017.
In addition to Mr. Becerra, Dr. Rochelle Walensky was named as the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an appointment that resonated with advocates seeking to end HIV. Dr. Walensky is a well-known and respected HIV/AIDS researcher with expertise in vaccine delivery and outreach to underserved communities making her ideal to respond to both HIV and COVID-19. She is currently the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The Academy is pleased that a physician with such strong experience in HIV issues has been named to this important position and looks forward to working with Dr. Walensky.
In addition, President Elect Biden also named Dr. Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, a role that he also fulfilled during the Obama Administration. In addition, he named a team to work specifically on the COVID pandemic. They include:
Of note, Dr. Fauci will maintain his current position as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Academy welcomes each of these new appointees and looks forward to learning more members of the healthcare team as the Administration moves forward with its transition. The picks so far are admirable, placing a priority on expertise and the effective ability to manage and run large scale health programs. The Academy particularly appreciates that the Biden Administration appears to have placed an emphasis on accomplished medical professionals and looks forward to working together as we move towards our mutual goal of ending the HIV epidemic.