Harvard Chan alumna Mandy Cohen to lead CDC

June 16, 2023 – Mandy Cohen, MPH ’04, has been chosen by President Biden as the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is the latest in a long line of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health graduates to lead the nation’s top public health agency.

Mandy Cohen
Mandy Cohen

Cohen, former North Carolina health secretary, is replacing another Harvard Chan graduate, Rochelle Walensky, an infectious diseases specialist from Massachusetts General Hospital who led the CDC since January 2021 and is stepping down at the end of June.

Cohen currently works as an executive at Aledade, a private-sector firm that works to improve primary care health practices. During her five years leading North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, she helped improve the state’s Medicaid program and steered the state’s COVID response. In 2020, Cohen received an Alumni Award—the Leadership in Public Health Practice Award—from Harvard Chan School for her work in North Carolina. She was cited for her “technical and scientific knowledge, vision, communication skills, ability to influence key decision makers, compassion and empathy, commitment to inclusion and diversity, and mentoring.”

In a statement from the White House, President Biden praised Cohen’s ability “to find common ground and put complex policy into action.”

Previously, Cohen served under President Obama as senior official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), where she helped implement Affordable Care Act programs. She has also worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs on women’s health, and on HIV issues in South Africa.

Public health experts quoted in the media spoke highly of Cohen, noting that she was a clear communicator during the pandemic. Neel Shah—chief medical officer of Maven Clinic, a digital health care provider, and former director of Ariadne Labs’ Delivery Decisions Initiative—said in a June 1 New York Times article, before Cohen’s appointment was official, that she “did an outstanding job of having an impact” in North Carolina, a purple state, during the extremely politicized COVID public health emergency.

Previous Harvard Chan graduates who served as director of the CDC included James Goddard, MPH ’55 (1962-1966), David Sencer, MPH ’58 (1966-1977), William Foege, MPH ’65 (1977-1983), James O. Mason, MPH ’63, DPH ’67 (1983-1989), and Jeffrey Koplan, MPH ’78 (1998-2002), and Walensky.

Read the White House announcement: President Biden Announces Intent to Appoint Dr. Mandy Cohen as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Read a Washington Post article: Biden announces physician Mandy Cohen will lead CDC

Read an NPR article: Biden taps former North Carolina health secretary to lead CDC