5 Top Healthcare Position Replacements Under the Trump Administration

A glimpse into some of President-elect Donald J. Trump's choices for important replacements within the healthcare world.

As President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team is keeping busy with filling up the more than 4000 vacancies that will be left following President Barack Obama’s departure, here’s a glimpse into some of his choices for top positions within the healthcare world.

 

1. HHS Secretary

One of the earliest announcements by the team was the choice for HHS secretary. Tom Price, MD, an orthopedic surgeon by training, has been tapped to replace Secretary Silvia Mathews Burwell to lead HHS as its 23rd secretary. Price, who has represented Georgia’s 6th congressional district since 2005, currently chairs the House Budget Committee. Following his nomination by Trump, Price said in a statement, “There is much work to be done to ensure we have a healthcare system that works for patients, families, and doctors; that leads the world in the cure and prevention of illness; and that is based on sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovative spirit.”

Price, a very vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is expected to play a dominant role in replacing the health law.

 

2. CMS Administrator

Simultaneous with the announcement for HHS Secretary, the transition team nominated Seema Verma, MPH, to the post of CMS Administrator. Verma, a health policy consultant, is cofounder of SVC, Inc. According to the company website, Verma has a lot of experience with redesigning Medicaid programs in several states, including in Indiana–where Vice President—elect Mike Pence is the current governor. Following the passage of the ACA, Verma was the health reform lead for Indiana.

Verma would replace CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt.

 

3. FDA Commissioner

Two names are being floated by the transition team as replacement for Robert Califf, MD, to lead the FDA: Scott Gottlieb, MD, and Jim O’Neill.

Gottlieb, a leading health policy expert, is a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and is a venture partner specializing in healthcare investments at New Enterprise Associates. O’Neill is managing director at Mithril Capital, a global investment firm. Gottlieb has served at both the FDA and CMS early in his career–he was the deputy commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs at the FDA and a senior adviser to a former CMS Administrator.

 

4. NIH Director

Will Trump replace director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Francis Collins, MD, PhD? The President-elect is not too excited about the way the NIH has been functioning, having said in the past, “I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.” Collins, however, has received the endorsement of key Republican leaders within the Congress, including outgoing House and Energy Commerce chairman Fred Upton and Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander.

Responsible for launching substantial research efforts such as the Precision Medicine Initiative and Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, Collins lacks the support of his peers. A report sent by a team of top-notch researchers, which includes former NIH directors, has urged the new administration to initiate “a systematic search for a highly qualified person as early as possible” to replace Collins.

 

5. CDC Director

There is no word yet on whether CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, will remain in his position. Trump has been an active critic of Frieden in the past, especially during the Zika virus epidemic. While the CDC and Frieden view opioid abuse as a huge crisis facing the United States, Pence was initially a staunch opponent of sterile needle exchanges in Indiana. He was, however, forced to implement the program in Indiana’s Scott County following a big spike in the number of HIV-positive cases resulting from shared opioid drug needles.