Dr Karen B. DeSalvo Leaves ONC for Ebola Response Team

Effective immediately, Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, will be stepping down as national coordinator for health information technology to assist HHS in the fight against Ebola.

Effective immediately, Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, will be stepping down as national coordinator for health information technology (IT) to assist HHS in the fight against Ebola.

Dr DeSalvo will become the acting assistant secretary for health, overseeing 12 core public health offices, including the surgeon general’s office, and the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, according to HHS. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health also oversees 10 regional health offices and 10 Presidential and Secretaarial advisory committees. Her office leads policy recommendation development for public health issues. In her farewell email to staff at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), she wrote that her new job will allow her to be part of the team responding to Ebola.

As part of her new role, Dr DeSalvo will work directly with HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on pressing public health issues, something she is not unfamiliar with. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Dr DeSalvo was credited with leading efforts to rebuild the public health infrastructure in New Orleans in the aftermath of the disaster. She worked to set up mobile clinics so she and other physicians could care for patients.

She wrote about her experience and the “logistic nightmare” presented with limited telephone and Internet access in her “Letter from New Orleans” in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr DeSalvo wrote that she dreamt of transforming the post-hurricane healthcare system to be proactive and able to “identify at-risk patients before their conditions deteriorate.”

As Dr DeSalvo steps down from her position with ONC, Lisa Lewis, ONC’s chief operating officer will serve as acting national coordinator, according to ONC.

Dr DeSalvo was the fifth national coordinator in the history of ONC, replacing Farzad Mostashari, MD, just 10 months ago.

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