By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

President-elect Joe Biden this week introduced a mix of new and familiar public health figures to serve in important roles inside the new administration.

Xavier Becerra, former member of Congress and current California attorney general, has been nominated to service as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Becerra was a key player in the passage of the Affordable Care Act and led a recent defense of the act before the Supreme Court. Becerra would be the first Latino to serve as HHS secretary.

The American Hospital Association called Becerra “a champion for affordable health access and coverage” and said “he has consistently made people across America and their health a priority.”

Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, FIDSA, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, has been tapped to lead the CDC. Walensky may be best known for her work combatting HIV/AIDS around the globe.

“Her contributions to research, policy, and practice in understanding, responding to, and controlling pandemic threats that include HIV, tuberculosis, and now COVID-19 have informed global and domestic efforts that are critical to protecting Americans and advancing global health,” the Infectious Diseases Society of America said in a statement.

The president-elect has asked Vivek Murthy, MD, who served as the surgeon general late in President Obama’s second term, to return to that same role in 2021. The Biden transition team has also asked Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to serve as “Chief Medical Adviser on COVID-19 to the President.” Fauci, who has served as a counselor to six presidents, has been a consistently visible figure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Biden-Harris healthcare team members introduced this week include:

  • Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS — COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair (current associate professor of medicine, public health, and management at the Yale School of Medicine).
  • Jeff Zients — Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (key player in the introduction of in 2013).
  • Natalie Quillian — Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response (coordinated interagency response to opioid epidemic in the Obama administration).