Physicians and scientists, but many with Washington-insider profiles

President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who made the Covid-19 pandemic the focus of his campaign along with a pledge to “listen to science,” kicked off the first week of his “transition” by naming a 13-member Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board led by a pair of familiar faces from previous administrations.

In a prepared televised speech announcing the formation of his Covid-19 board, Biden also issued an emotional plea to Americans — Democrats and Republicans — to follow public health recommendations to wear masks, socially distance, avoid crowds, and frequently wash hands.

“We know the single most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of Covid-19 is to wear a mask,” he said as he gestured with a mask clutched in his hand. Noting the early positive results from vaccine-maker Pfizer, which was reported earlier in the day, he cautioned that “today’s news does not change that urgent reality… It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where they stood, or where you stood before election day. It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask.”

Biden’s remarks stood in stark contrast to the public remarks of President Donald J. Trump, who has repeatedly described mask wearing as a matter of personal preference.

The Covid-19 transition group will be co-chaired by Vivek Murthy, MD, MPH, who was appointed U.S. Surgeon General by former president Barack Obama and who served from 2014 until Trump fired him in 2017.

Joining Murthy will be David Kessler, MD, JD, who was appointed as FDA Commissioner by former president George H.W. Bush in 1990 and continued to serve under former President Bill Clinton until 1997. During his term at the agency, he championed the effort to expand FDA’s control of tobacco products, but he fell short of his goal. That expansion finally occurred in 2009 when Obama signed the Family Smoking and Tobacco Prevention Act into law.

The third co-chair comes from outside the Beltway but inside the elite circles of medicine: Yale’s Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, who is an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management in New Haven and Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at the Yale School of Medicine.

Additional members of the advisory board include:

  • Rick Bright, PhD, who turned whistle-blower after being demoted by the Trump administration from his post as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and who resigned his NIH post in early October 2020. In testimony to Congress, Bright claimed he was removed from his BARDA post for objecting to the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, who is best known to most Americans as the author of best-selling books and as a regular contributor to The New Yorker. Inside medicine, he has major chops as the Cynthia and John Fish Distinguished Professor of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also the founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, a joint center between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health for health systems innovation, and of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally. He is also a bit of a Washington-insider, since he served as an HHS advisor during the Clinton years.
  • Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, is an oncologist and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. From January 2009 to January 2011, he served as special advisor for health policy to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Since 1997, he has served as chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And, no small thing, he is the brother of Rahm Emanuel, former Obama chief of staff and former Chicago mayor.
  • Celine Gounder, MD, ScM, is a well-known media personality in the New York area and, unlike other physicians on the transition board, she holds a clinical appointment—clinical assistant professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine— rather than a staff appointment at a major institution.
  • Julie Morita, MD, is Executive Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Morita previously served as the Health Commissioner for the City of Chicago for nearly two decades.
  • Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota. Osterholm previously served as a Science Envoy for Health Security on behalf of the State Department. For 24 years (1975 to 1999), he worked in the Minnesota Department of Health, the last 15 years as state epidemiologist.
  • Loyce Pace, MPH, is the Executive Director and President of Global Health Council. In the past, she worked with Physicians for Human Rights and Catholic Relief Services, and she previously served in leadership positions at the LIVESTRONG Foundation and the American Cancer Society.
  • Robert Rodriguez, MD, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine, where he works on the frontline in the emergency department and ICU of two major trauma centers. In July 2020, Rodriguez volunteered to help with a critical surge of Covid-19 patients in the ICU in his hometown of Brownsville, Texas.
  • Eric Goosby, MD, is an internationally recognized expert on infectious diseases and Professor of Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine. During the Clinton Administration, he was the founding director of the Ryan White CARE Act, the largest federally funded HIV/AIDS program. He went on to become the interim Director of the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy. In the Obama Administration, Goosby was appointed Ambassador-at-Large and implemented the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). After serving as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, he was appointed by the UN Secretary General as the Special Envoy for TB.

Peggy Peck, Editor-in-Chief, BreakingMED™

Cat ID: 125

Topic ID: 79,125,125,190,926,192,561,927,150,151,418,725,928,925,934