The White House confirmed exclusively to CNN that President Joe Biden intends to appoint Dr. Mandy Cohen to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, replacing Dr. Rochelle Valensky in a key public health role as the agency grapples with the coronavirus response. Post-pandemic challenges. Pandemic.
“Dr. Cohen is one of the nation’s top physicians and health leaders, with experience leading large, complex organizations and a proven record protecting the health and safety of Americans,” Biden told CNN in his first interview. said in a statement shared.
As Cohen takes on an increasingly political role at the CDC, Biden heralds her ability to work down the aisle.
“Dr. Cohen’s ability to find common ground and put complex policies into action has been recognized by leaders of both parties. I look forward to working with Dr. Cohen as she leads with integrity and transparency some of our nation’s best scientists and Public health experts,” the president said.
Cohn, he’ll be leaving soon role in the private sector, who served as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, oversaw the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and oversaw a major transition of the state’s Medicaid program during the Trump and Biden administrations. She was previously Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), where she worked closely with current White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and was instrumental in implementing the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange.
Zients touted Cohen’s management skills after the announcement, saying in a statement, “Dr. Cohen will serve as the head of the world’s finest public health organization, saving lives every day. Getting things done is the trusted voice the American people want to hear.”
Cohen received his medical degree from Yale School of Medicine and his master’s degree in public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She is an internist and also has experience working with the state and federal governments.
Cohen’s choice is The Washington Post first reported.
Last month, days before the Covid-19 public health emergency lifted, Valensky announced his resignation from the government. Her last day at CDC was June 30.
As she prepared to take over the role, Cohen inherited a challenging and demoralizing agency. According to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Strengthening America, the CDC is at a “dangerous moment” and a “stronger, effective and more accountable” agency is a pressing issue for national security earlier this year Published Health Safety.
Those who have worked with Cohen describe her as adept at building relationships in the political arena and as someone who tends to respond to crises and challenges — pointing to her experience launching healthcare.gov during the Obama administration and working aisle in North Carolina during the pandemic .
“She doesn’t shy away from a challenge. She accepts a challenge. She’s the type of person who will say things in the room that no one wants to say or is afraid of, including, you know, about whether they’re doing the right thing or whether they’re The truth about our work,” said Andy Slavitt, a former Biden adviser who worked with Cohen when he was a CMS administrator and was his chief of staff.
“She’s able to be a part of the solution, but also be on top of the problem and have enough perspective. She reaches out to people and asks for advice, and she’s not afraid to do it,” Slavitt added.
Cohen has won praise from former Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina.
“She has all the tools and first-hand experience of what has to be done. She has the wisdom to know how to do it. … I’ve seen Mandy make tough decisions firsthand in North Carolina. And I don’t To think that there was a period in public health where every health decision made throughout the system had such a bright spotlight,” Burr told CNN in a phone interview.
During her time leading the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services through the pandemic, Burr said, “You would think that if people wanted to play politics, they would do it — they would actively do it — and you would come up with Kind of a mixed resume. She came out with a 100 percent. I think it’s because she never politicized anything. She called the ball and the strike based on what was best for health care for North Carolinians,” he said .
Yet the CDC has become deeply political in recent years, a challenge Cohen will have to grapple with, especially as she advocates for agency funding during what is expected to be a fraught battle for government funding this fall.
“It’s a political job. In this job, you have to look at the people who fund you and appropriate it, the voters and voters, because they have to see these institutions provide them with a living,” Slavitt said.
He added that Cohen is “deeply loved” bipartisan in North Carolina because of her willingness to listen, calling her “very politically adept,” key when testifying on Capitol Hill, working with the White House and communicating with the states The role of skills in the CDC.
North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who is leading the state’s response, said Cohen “believes that being sober and transparent about the challenges is critical to building consensus and finding solutions, and she really knows doctors , regulators, and even lawmakers think and work”
Cohen has been critical of the CDC’s initial response to Covid-19 during the Trump administration.
“It’s a crisis. No one is perfect in a crisis. … And I think getting through a crisis is really about preparation and execution. I think on the CDC side, they were underprepared, they were under-executed Not enough. …Unfortunately, some of their early missteps really hurt their long-term credibility,” she said in an interview. dialogue Working with the Center for Health Sector Management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, noted her state’s efforts to build trust and “be very humble in saying what we know and what we don’t know.”
“I sometimes feel like the CDC can’t articulate how it’s going to advise, and it can’t articulate, ‘We’re learning, we’re watching the science happening here in real time, folks. Like, this is what I gave today. Your best answer … but in two weeks, things might be different. It’s not easy to communicate,” she said.
Cohen continued, “There are a lot of great scientists and thinkers at the CDC. They don’t have the operational execution capabilities they need,” adding that states must “fill that gap.”
While the position is currently a political appointment, Burr has spearheaded recently passed legislation that would make the Senate-confirmed role effective in 2025 — a test of Cohn’s ability to stabilize the CDC and make a case for his successor. Prepare.
“She will be the bridge between a time when we don’t need it and a time when we do. … My advice to her is that you will be judged on your ability to build the CDC, and the next CDC director will be judged on the They will be judged by their qualifications,” Burr said.
Cooper echoed these sentiments. As she took over the state health department, Cooper said, “She gave the staff new hope and vision and a plan of action and built the department back to where it needed to be and beyond. Something like that. We know the agency has been under attack, and I think she’s going to know what to do to instil confidence in the staff there. And she’s going to be good at dealing with external forces because there’s a lot of challenges there.”
Cohen will begin her new role next month.
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