Media Reports: Biden to Pick Mandy Cohen to Lead CDC

June 2, 2023
Reports in the Washington Post and other publications have confirmed that President Biden is planning to select Mandy Cohen, M.D., former Secretary of Health in North Carolina, to lead the CDC

Media reports are confirming that President Joe Biden has chosen Mandy Cohen, M.D., who from 2017 to 2021, served as the Health and Human Services Secretary for the state of North Carolina, to become the next Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and to replace Rochelle Walensky, M.D., who is stepping down from that position on June 30. Cohen had only recently—in January 2022—joined Aledade, the Bethesda, Md.-based company that works with providers to develop accountable care organizations (ACOs) and participate in value-based contracting, as that company’s CEO.

Washington Post reporters Dan Diamond and Lena H. Sun first broke the news on Thursday, June 1 in mid-afternoon, and their reporting was quickly amplified by reports in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and POLITICO.

Diamond and Sun reported on Thursday afternoon that “President Biden plans to select former North Carolina health secretary Mandy Cohen to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to three people with direct knowledge of the pending announcement. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra spoke with Cohen this week to congratulate her on her selection, the people said. Biden’s formal announcement is expected later this month, after White House officials finalize Cohen’s paperwork, the people said.” They noted that “The three people spoke with The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity so as not to get ahead of the White House on a personnel matter. Neither the White House nor Cohen immediately responded to requests for comment.”

Later Thursday afternoon, the New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Apoorva Mandavilli reported that “The selection of Dr. Cohen, which was first reported by The Washington Post, is not final. The White House is still putting together the necessary paperwork to make the appointment official, according to another person familiar with the selection process. But Dr. Cohen is the leading candidate, this person said. The White House declined to comment. Dr. Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment. If chosen by Mr. Biden,” they wrote, “Dr. Cohen, an internist, would replace Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, an infectious disease expert who announced last month that she would step down at the end of June. Dr. Walensky led the C.D.C. through difficult times; the agency had grown demoralized under President Donald J. Trump and drew fierce criticism under both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.”

And, they added, “In North Carolina, Dr. Cohen served under Gov. Roy Cooper as secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services from 2017 to 2021. In that post, she established herself as a familiar and steady voice who maintained the public’s trust despite deep political divisions, people who worked with her said.”

Meanwhile, POLITICO’s Adam Cancryn wrote on Thursday afternoon that “Her selection would come at a transition point for the CDC, which faced intense scrutiny over its performance throughout the Covid crisis and low morale within the sprawling agency. Biden picked Walensky at the outset of his administration in an effort to restore trust in the CDC and public health more broadly, vowing at the time that she would play a prominent role in directing his pandemic response. Yet while Walensky placed renewed emphasis on relying on science to craft policy, she also came under fire at times over the CDC’s shifting guidance and shaky messaging around key elements like masking and vaccines,” he wrote, adding that “The CDC is also in the midst of a strategic overhaul launched by Walensky last year; a longer-term project that Cohen would be tasked with managing in an effort to better prepare the agency for the next public health emergency.”

Importantly, Cancryn wrote, “Biden officials involved in the search came away from discussions with Cohen impressed by her broad range of health experience at the federal and state levels, two of the people said, and convinced she had the ability to manage the nearly 11,000-person agency and the broader political dynamics of an administration gearing up for Biden’s re-election run.”

Further, Newsweek’s Kaitlin Lewis noted on Thursday evening that “Cohen was first selected as NCDHHS secretary in 2017 by North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Her five-year tenure was largely marked by helping Cooper expand the state's Medicaid program, according to a report from NC Health News, which said that Cohen was able "to listen to and talk with" politicians on both sides of the aisle to end a decades-long fight over implementing the program.”

With regard to Mandy Cohen’s professional background and history, Wikipedia’s article explains that “Cohen grew up on Long Island in the Baldwin hamlet in Hempstead, New York. Her mother worked as a nurse practitioner in emergency medicine, and inspired her to pursue a medical career. Cohen has a bachelor's degree in policy analysis and management from Cornell University. She received her medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine and has a graduate degree in public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She trained in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.”

Further, Wikipedia states that, “After completing her residency in Boston, Cohen moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs as the Deputy Director of Comprehensive Women's Health Services”; and that, in 2013, she was hired as a senior advisor by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), “toto assist in implementing policies for Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children's Health Insurance Program, as well as the Federally Facilitated Marketplace under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She was later appointed as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff Services at the agency and served as Acting Director of the agency's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.”

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