Karen DeSalvo Headshot

Karen DeSalvo, a former APHA member, begins her term as national coordinator for health IT at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Photo by NOLA.gov

Two months ago Karen DeSalvo and colleagues from the New Orleans Health Department presented a new public health model at APHA’s 141st Annual Meeting in Boston. Today, DeSalvo begins using her innovation nationally after her appointment as national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A former APHA member, DeSalvo becomes the fifth leader of the agency responsible for improving U.S. health care through new technology. Her previous experience includes teaching at the Tulane University School of Medicine and most recently serving as New Orleans health commissioner since 2011. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, DeSalvo founded the award-winning 504HealthNet network of community-based health care providers to better coordinate care across the region.

“Under Karen’s outstanding leadership we’ve seen New Orleans make great strides in addressing violence prevention and increasing health coverage particularly in low-income neighborhoods,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD. “Dr. DeSalvo has given us a blueprint on how to make a large health system more efficient and resourceful even during fiscally challenging times.”

In a Dec. 19 statement, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lauded DeSalvo’s integration of health informatics, or science, with population-based health improvements.

“Her work as commissioner has led to positive changes to the way health care providers deliver care to their patients, improved accessibility and outcomes for patients, and improved the health of all New Orleanians,” Sebelius said. “Dr. DeSalvo’s hands-on experience with health delivery system reform and [health information technology] 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 replaces Jacob Reider, who has been serving as acting national coordinator for health information technology since October when Farzad Mostashari left the full-time post.