Karen DeSalvo To Become Country's Next Health IT Chief


On Thursday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in a memo to HHS staff that Karen DeSalvo, city of New Orleans' health commissioner, has been selected as the next national coordinator for health IT, Modern Healthcare reports (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare,12/19).


In August, Farzad Mostashari announced that he would step down in the fall after serving two years as the country's health IT chief (iHealthBeat, 8/6).

In September, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has named Jacob Reider - - director of ONC's Office of the Chief Medical Officer -- as the agency's acting national coordinator (iHealthBeat, 9/26).

DeSavlo will become the fifth national coordinator for health IT, following:

  • Mostashari;
  • David Blumenthal;
  • Robert Kolodner; and
  • David Brailer, the first ONC head when the position was established by former President George W. Bush (R) in 2004 (iHealthBeat, 2/4/11).

DeSalvo's Previous Work

In addition to serving as the New Orleans health commissioner, DeSalvo also is a senior health policy adviser to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 12/19).

Previously, DeSalvo was a professor of medicine and vice dean of community affairs and health policy at Tulane University in New Orleans.

In addition, she headed up the effort to create a network of primary care medical homes as part of New Orleans' post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding process. She also previously served as president of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum.

In the memo, Sebelius noted that DeSalvo boosted the use of health IT as "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."

Sebelius added, "DeSalvo's hands-on experience with health delivery system reform and [health IT] and its potential to improve health care and public health will be invaluable assets to the Office of the National Coordinator and the department."


DeSalvo will take over as the new national coordinator for health IT on Jan. 13 (Modern Healthcare, 12/19). 

In a separate memo, Reider said he will return to his position as ONC's chief medical officer (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 12/19).

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