Health On the Hill Politics

Biden’s Choices for CDC Director and HHS Secretary Promote Diversity & Equity

President-elect Joe Biden has announced two more appointments for his future White House team – Rochelle Walenksy as the next director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Xavier Becerra as the next secretary of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS). Both appointees have backgrounds in protecting healthcare access and equity.

Rochelle Walenksy leads the infectious-diseases department at Massachusetts General Hospital and is a professor at Harvard Medical School. Much of her research and work have been centered on HIV/AIDS, equity, and access to treatment. After her appointment was announced, she posted the following message on Twitter: “I began my medical career at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and I’ve spent my life ever since working to research, treat, and combat infectious diseases. I’m honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at the CDC. We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts.”

As for Xavier Becerra, he will be the first Latino to lead HHS and has led fights against efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during his time as attorney general of California. He has confronted healthcare costs, and is a champion of reproductive rights, particularly in the legal sphere. In response to this appointment, Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) said in a statement, “This pandemic has brought a glaring light to the health inequities in our country…Having an individual who not only has outstanding qualifications, but also understands the needs of minority communities is imperative as our country moves forward in its fight against the pandemic”.

In addition to these appointments, Biden selected Jeff Zients to be the White House coordinator of the coronavirus response, Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as the head of a new task force whose goal is to reduce disparities in response, care, and treatment for COVID-19.

Sources: Washington Post 12/8/20, Los Angeles Times 12/6/20, NPR 12/7/20

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