why does it matter: Dr. Cohen will oversee CDC’s response to public health crises.
The appointment does not require Senate confirmation, which means that Dr. Cohen can assume leadership of the CDC as soon as Dr. Walensky resigns. Congress recently passed legislation that requires confirmation from the head of the agency, but the provision will not take effect until 2025.
In her own statement on Friday, Dr. Walensky called Dr. Cohen “perfectly suited to lead the CDC as it moves forward based on the lessons learned from Covid-19.”
The Biden administration allowed the federal Covid public health emergency declaration to lapse in May. Dr. Cohen will oversee the CDC’s newly revised efforts to track the coronavirus, including in wastewater. He will also be responsible for a broad set of public health crises managed at agency facilities, including other infectious disease outbreaks and opioid use.
The CDC has faced decline in public confidence As the nation recovers from a pandemic in which the agency failed in early efforts to test Americans, allowed political interference in its scientific literature, and delivered what health experts say was confusing guidance on testing, masking and understanding the spread of the virus.
Dr. Cohen was said to be the top candidate on a sizable list of names narrowed by administration officials in recent weeks. She was the first choice of Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House chief of staff and former Covid response coordinator for the Biden administration, according to a person familiar with the search process.
Background: Dr. Cohen brings experience in the public and private sectors.
An internist and executive at Aledade, a company that supports physicians and community health clinics, Dr. Cohen served in the Obama administration, including as director of operations and chief of staff for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, who left the White House this week after leading the Biden administration’s response to Covid-19, said Dr. Cohen has unusually strong credentials in the public and private sectors to be a head of the CDCs.
“One of the things we have learned in this pandemic and other public health crises is that an effective response requires bringing both public health and the health care system together,” he said. “There are very few people who have great experience in both.”
Dr. Cohen also oversaw North Carolina’s COVID-19 response as a political representative at a time of divided state government, experience that some public health experts say could translate into the complexities of running an Atlanta-based agency. within the Washington-based Department of Health. and Human Services.
“What’s important now with an incoming CDC director is the ability to work with officials in Washington and across the country,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Before Mr. Biden announced his intention to appoint Dr. Cohen, a group of Republican lawmakers wrote to him objecting to his likely selection, citing his support for mask requirements and saying that he had “politicized science”.
Whats Next: Dr. Cohen will be busy overseeing an agency review.
Last year, Dr. Walensky began a sweeping effort to reorganize what public health experts say is a chronically underfunded agency, a process that Dr. Cohen will take over. That includes working to modernize its data systems and improve its communications with the public.