Karen DeSalvo to become country's next health IT chief

Dec. 20, 2013

Today, New Orleans Health Commissioner and Senior Health Policy Advisor Dr. Karen DeSalvo announced that she will leave her post on January 10, 2014 to assume a Presidential appointment at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C. 

Dr. DeSalvo will join the Obama Administration as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to lead the HHS office at the forefront of the adoption of health information technology to improve healthcare nationwide.

DeSalvo joined the Landrieu Administration in 2011. She previously was a professor of medicine and vice dean for community affairs and health policy at Tulane University School of Medicine.

Mayor Landrieu said, “Karen’s passion and commitment to the health of New Orleanians is evident in the innovative, hard work she has undertaken to both overhaul the Health Department and rebuild community trust in public health. From the implementation of Fit NOLA to the design of a systematic approach to identifying those with medical needs during disasters, we know that her success in making lasting, positive changes in health care will continue in her exciting new role at HHS.”

Under her leadership as Health Commissioner, the New Orleans Health Department has been transformed into a modern, effective department focused on the critical public health functions of assessment, assurance, and evidence-based policy making. Additionally,  Dr. DeSalvo has successfully led one of Mayor Landrieu’s top priorities to restore health care and hospital services in New Orleans East as the Vice Chair of the Orleans Parish Hospital Service District A Board and has been integral in implementing the Mayor’s comprehensive murder reduction strategy, NOLA FOR LIFE .

Today, the Health Department is on track to be one of a handful of public health departments across the country to be certified by the national Public Health Accreditation Board. And, within the first year of Dr. DeSalvo's tenure, the City’s primary care clinics transitioned operations to a network of high-quality community health centers operated by partners, allowing the Health Department to reorganize and shift its focus to public health. Through the innovative Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection program, a Medicaid Waiver that allows for low-income individuals to receive high-quality primary care at a network of community health centers, over 54,000 individuals in the four-parish region will continue to receive high-quality primary care through 2014.

“It has been a tremendous honor and a life-changing experience to serve our community as Health Commissioner,” said Dr. DeSalvo. “Mayor Landrieu has been a true champion for health and I am grateful for his support and leadership throughout my appointment. Knowing firsthand the kind of focus this Administration has had on the public’s health, I remain optimistic that both now and in future generations, the health and lives of New Orleanians will continue to improve.”

Upon Dr. DeSalvo's departure, Charlotte Parent, who has served as Deputy Director of the Health Department since 2010, will oversee the department's operations and initiatives.

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