The White House announced on Friday that Dr. Mandy Cohen, a former official from North Carolina, will take over as the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cohen has experience managing a government organization, unlike the previous two leaders of the country’s main federal public health agency. From 2017 until last year, she served as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services secretary. Before that, she worked for two government agencies in health-related positions.
“Dr. Cohen is one of the nation’s top physicians and health leaders with experience leading large and complex organizations and a proven track record protecting Americans’ health and safety,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
She succeeds Dr. Rochelle Walensky, 54, who announced her resignation last month with effect from June 30.
About a year after the pandemic started, in 2021, Walensky, a veteran infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, assumed leadership of the CDC.
After some difficult years at the CDC, where more than 12,000 staff are tasked with defending Americans from disease outbreaks and other public health dangers, Cohen, 44, will take over.
Jewish Dr. Cohen is well recognized for proudly wearing the “chai” charm every day.
The federal organization, with its headquarters in Atlanta, has long been regarded as a leader in illness prevention and a trustworthy source of health information. However, surveys revealed that public trust had diminished, partly due to the CDC’s errors in handling COVID-19 and partly due to political attacks and defamation campaigns.
The agency is being reorganized by Walensky to increase flexibility and communication.
Cohen was raised in New York’s Long Island. Her mother practiced nursing. Cohen graduated with medical degrees from Yale School of Medicine and Harvard School of Public Health.
She has also worked as an advocate. She was a founding member and the organization’s first executive director.
Doctors for America works to improve racial and ethnic inequities in healthcare and extend health insurance coverage.
The American surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, was another founder. The organization was founded to mobilize doctors for political action and support Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
In 2008, Cohen began working for the federal government in the U.S. She was deputy director for women’s health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
She later held several federal positions, including chief operations officer, many with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
She accepted the position of North Carolina’s health and human services in 2017. Cohen, a key advisor to the Democrat governor Roy Cooper, represented her state’s reaction to the coronavirus by describing dangers and safety measures while sporting a gold necklace with a charm of the Hebrew word for “life.”
In 2020, Cohen objected to President Donald Trump’s demands that Charlotte’s Republican National Convention be held to capacity without wearing any masks. Later, her office announced it would bend to the GOP’s demands and lift the state’s ban on gatherings of more than 10 people indoors, but it remained firm about masks and social seclusion.
The main events were finally relocated from Charlotte by Trump.
In late 2021, Cohen announced her resignation from the state position, citing a desire to spend more time with her family and pursue new opportunities.
She subsequently accepted a leadership position at the consultancy firm Aledade Inc. in Maryland.