Obama appoints health IT expert as HHS assistant secretary

The Obama administration has nominated Karen DeSalvo to become the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)'s assistant secretary for health, a position that she has held on an interim basis since last fall.

DeSalvo was first named as the department’s acting assistant secretary for health in October 2014, shortly after she became the national coordinator for health information technology.

Her position – which is one of several assistant secretaries in the department – will specifically oversee the office of the surgeon general, the national vaccine program and the office of minority health.

She had been specifically charged with coordinating the department’s response to the global Ebola outbreak.

Prior to serving in the Obama administration, DeSalvo served in local government in New Orleans. She was both the city’s health commissioner and a senior health policy adviser to the city’s mayor, Mitch Landrieu, until 2014.

Previously, she served as vice dean of community affairs and health policy at Tulane University. She had also been a professor there since 1996.

“She continues to be clinically active in Louisiana,” according to a statement from the White House.

HHS also recently appointed a new second-in-command. Obama tapped rural health advocate Mary Wakefield to become deputy secretary in March after the departure of the longtime leader Bill Corr.