New Orleans Health Department Commissioner Karen DeSalvo announced she will join the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) next month. DeSalvo has been appointed National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, replacing acting head Jacob Reider, who himself replaced Farzad Mostashari in August.
DeSalvo joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration in 2011, and she led the Health Department grow Landrieu's public heath agenda — including expanding hospital and community clinic services through the innovative Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection program, in which Medicaid waivers help low-income patients connect with primary care physicians. DeSalvo implemented programs in the NOLA for Life program, from family and youth violence intervention and prevention and mental health counseling. She also has implemented a renewed domestic violence program, recently profiled by Gambit, and works in concert with criminal justice agencies to help victims and families. The department has secured several yearslong grants totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Before her gig with the Landrieu administration, DeSalvo served as a dean for community affairs and health policy at Tulane University's School of Medicine.
DeSalvo said in a statement, “It has been a tremendous honor and a life-changing experience to serve our community as Health Commissioner. ... Mayor Landrieu has been a true champion for health and I am grateful for his support and leadership throughout my appointment. Knowing firsthand the kind of focus this Administration has had on the public’s health, I remain optimistic that both now and in future generations, the health and lives of New Orleanians will continue to improve.”
Health department deputy director Charlotte Parent will step up to oversee the department.