US President Joe Biden on Friday (June 16) tapped former North Carolina health secretary Mandy Cohen to lead the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an agency that was in the forefront of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cohen will replace Rochelle Walensky, who is stepping down on June 30 as head of the public health agency, which critics have said was slow to respond to the pandemic.
“Dr. Cohen is one of the nation’s top physicians and health leaders with experience leading large and complex organisations, and a proven track-record protecting Americans’ health and safety,” Biden said in a statement.
An internal medicine physician, Cohen led the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services from 2017 to 2021.
She is currently executive vice president at Aledade and CEO of Aledade Care Solution, a network of independent primary-care practices.
Cohen previously served as chief operating officer and chief of staff of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. While at CMMS, she served as acting director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
Walensky led the CDC for two years while the pandemic was at its height and oversaw a revamp of its structure to enable a nimble response to future pandemics.
She proposed plans to modernise the agency, including giving the CDC the authority to require states to report data, which would require authorisation from Congress.
Under her leadership, the agency came under scrutiny by Republicans in Congress as well as public criticism regarding its pandemic response, including late and confusing public health guidance.