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HHS names Karen DeSalvo next National Coordinator for HIT

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has its next leader, according to a staff announcement made by Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. City of New Orleans Health Commissioner and Senior Health Policy Advisor to Mayor Mitch Landrieu Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, will take over the reins currently held by Acting National Coordinator Jacob Reider, MD.

Here’s Sebelius’s note to HHS staff:

I would like to announce that Dr. Karen DeSalvo, who currently serves as the City of New Orleans Health Commissioner and Senior Health Policy Advisor to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, will be the next National Coordinator for Health Information Technology here at the Department.

During her tenure, Dr. DeSalvo has been at the forefront of efforts to modernize the New Orleans health care system.  Following Hurricane Katrina, for example, she led projects to increase access to care by augmenting the city’s neighborhood-based medical homes for low income, uninsured and other vulnerable populations in the New Orleans area.

Throughout her career, Dr. DeSalvo has advocated increasing the use of health information technology (HIT) to improve access to care, the quality of care, and overall population health outcomes — including efforts post-Katrina to redesign of the health system with HIT as a foundational element.  She served as President of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum, the Louisiana lead for their health information exchange and regional extension center grants.  She has also served as a member of the Steering Committee for the Crescent City Beacon Community grant.

As the New Orleans Health Commissioner she has made the increased utilization of HIT a cornerstone of the city’s primary care efforts and a key part of the city’s policy development, public health initiatives and emergency preparedness. Further, she has led the planning and construction of the city’s newest public hospital, which will have a fully-integrated HIT network.  Her work as commissioner has led to positive changes to the way healthcare providers deliver care to their patients, improved accessibility and outcomes for patients, and improved the health of all New Orleanians.  Dr. DeSalvo is a graduate of Suffolk University, Tulane Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. DeSalvo’s hands-on experience with health delivery system reform and HIT and its potential to improve health care and public health will be invaluable assets to the Office of the National Coordinator and the Department.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Jacob Reider, the Acting National Coordinator for his leadership of ONC during this time of transition.   I am pleased she is joining our committed team, and ask you to join me in welcoming her to HHS when she starts on Monday, January 13th.

In a note to ONC staff, Reider revealed that he will return to his post as the ONC’s Chief Medical Officer. “I have been honored to serve as your Acting National Coordinator.  Every minute has been inspiring, educational, and energizing,” he wrote.  “Both Lisa [Lewis] and I appreciate all of the support each and every one of you have given us and will give to Karen.  The work of ‘team ONC’ is a product of every team member contributing as much as we can toward our shared goals.”

Stay tuned for more.

Image Credit:  Tulane Public Relations





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