- Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell has announced that Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, will be stepping down from her post as National Coordinator effective tomorrow, according to an internal memo. Among her list of achievements, Burwell credited DeSalvo with championing the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) to advance health IT interoperability.
Taking her place is Principal Deputy National Coordinator at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Vindell Washington, MD, MHCM, FACEP.
DeSalvo is not exiting HHS entirely. She remains the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, a role she assumed as part of the federal agency's effort to address the Zika virus.
Here's the full memo sent to ONC staff on Thursday:
I am pleased to announce two important staff transitions. Starting Friday, August 12, Dr. Karen DeSalvo will continue to serve as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and transition out of her dual role as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. I have asked Dr. Vindell Washington to serve as National Coordinator, overseeing the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).
Karen has served tirelessly as the National Coordinator since joining the Department in January 2014. Under her leadership, ONC has advanced interoperability across the health system – which underpins progress on a wide range of Department and Administration priorities. She has also made significant advances to the Health Information Technology Certification Program to promote and expand the safe and secure flow of electronic health information when and where it matters most for individuals and clinicians. During her tenure, ONC has worked with other federal partners and the private sector to update the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan and develop a Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, both of which chart a person-centered path for improving health outcomes by unlocking health data through tools like open application programming interfaces (APIs). She has also co-chaired the Department’s Delivery System Reform efforts, which set historic goals and worked to leverage the resources of the Department to build a more person centered health system that encourages more coordinated care. As many of you know, I asked Karen to take on the duties of Assistant Secretary for Health in October 2014 during the Ebola crisis. Since that time, she has provided critical leadership on the Department’s public health agenda while simultaneously serving as National Coordinator. As Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, Karen has been instrumental in supporting families affected by the water crisis in Flint, in promoting nutritional and physical fitness through the development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the events surrounding the 60th Anniversary of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, and in leading the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. This year, she launched Public Health 3.0, an innovative cross-sector approach to strengthening local public health and building healthier communities. I am deeply grateful to Karen for her leadership and for her incredible service in both of these roles for nearly two years.
I am also very pleased to announce that Dr. Vindell Washington will become National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Many of you know Vindell from his excellent work as Principal Deputy National Coordinator at ONC, where he has also worked closely with leaders throughout the Department on key initiatives, such as Delivery System Reform, the Precision Medicine Initiative, and the opioid crisis. In his capacity as National Coordinator, Vindell will continue to lead the Administration’s efforts to leverage health information technology to reform how we pay for and deliver care; transform health research and innovation to empower clinicians, individuals and communities to manage their health; and oversee implementation of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan and the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap to unlock digital health data and ensure it is widely accessible, usable, and transferable throughout the public and private sectors.
Please join me in congratulating Karen and Vindell. And thank you for your dedication as we continue to sprint to the finish line in these final months of the Administration.
Sylvia M. Burwell
More to come.