Daily

DeSalvo nominated as assistant HHS secretary, would leave ONC

National health IT coordinator Dr. Karen DeSalvo has been nominated to be assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on a permanent basis, her office has confirmed. DeSalvo has served as acting assistant secretary since October, when HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell asked her to assist with the official response to the Ebola outbreak last […]

National health IT coordinator Dr. Karen DeSalvo has been nominated to be assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on a permanent basis, her office has confirmed. DeSalvo has served as acting assistant secretary since October, when HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell asked her to assist with the official response to the Ebola outbreak last fall.

If confirmed by the Senate, DeSalvo would not stay in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, an aide confirmed to MedCity News. Multiple news sources erroneously reported at the time she was named acting assistant secretary that DeSalvo, who has an extensive background in public health, would step down as national coordinator.

Burwell sent the following message to HHS staff Wednesday:

presented by

Colleagues,

I am pleased to share the news that earlier today the President nominated our colleague Dr. Karen DeSalvo to be Assistant Secretary for Health.

Karen came to the Department in January of 2014 after serving as the Health Commissioner for the City of New Orleans and Senior Health Policy Advisor to Mayor Mitch Landrieu. In this role, she worked to improve the health and well-being of the community through ensuring an effective healthcare system, and supporting efforts to integrate clinical medicine and public health initiatives. During her tenure, she led a transformation of the health department into a nationally recognized model. Prior to her work with the city, she was Vice Dean for Community Affairs and Health Policy at the Tulane School of Medicine and also on faculty at the Tulane School of Public Health. Throughout her career, Karen has been devoted to improving health outcomes broadly and has focused, in particular, on vulnerable and low resource populations.

As the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology here at HHS, Karen has promoted and expanded the utilization of electronic health records in health care. She led the development of an interoperability roadmap to increase communication between electronic health record systems, while at the same time providing patients more access to their health data while protecting their privacy. She has also sought to harness the power of electronic health records to improve the health care delivery system in the United States and has been an active leader on the Department’s delivery system reform initiatives. Karen more recently served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, and has been an integral part of the Department’s work on the response to the Ebola crisis as well.

Karen’s nomination now goes to the Senate for confirmation. As the Senate process moves forward, Karen will serve again as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health. At the same time, as her confirmation is pending, she will continue to serve as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Please join me in congratulating Karen, and wishing her the best as the confirmation process begins.

Sincerely,

Sylvia M. Burwell

The assistant secretary of HHS oversees 12 public health offices, including the Office of the Surgeon General and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

DeSalvo has been at ONC since January 2014; none of her four predecessors as national coordinator had served for less than two years. Prior to joining the federal government, she was health commissioner of New Orleans, where she helped the city rebuild its public health infrastructure after Hurricane Katrina.