Biden to nominate Atul Gawande for global health position

President Biden will nominate noted surgeon and writer Atul Gawande for a global health position at the U.S. Agency for International Development, the White House said Tuesday.

Gawande is a surgeon at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has professorships at Harvard’s medical and public health schools, and has written top-selling books and for the New Yorker about medicine and health policy.

Gawande also served as the CEO of Haven, the joint initiative from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase that was touted as a venture that could dramatically shake up U.S. health care. Gawande left his post in May 2020, while Haven itself shut down in January 2021, just a few years after its much hyped launch.

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During the pandemic, Gawande cofounded CIC Health, which helped with Covid-19 testing and vaccination programs. He also served on Biden’s coronavirus advisory board during the transition.

In a tweet, Gawande said that in his position as assistant administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, he would be working on the ongoing Covid-19 response. “With more COVID deaths worldwide in the first half of 2021 than in all of 2020, I’m grateful for the chance to help end this crisis and to re-strengthen public health systems worldwide,” Gawande wrote.

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If confirmed, Gawande would take on the role at a time when vaccine nationalism has led to massive disparities in immunization access around the world, with countries like the United States having a surplus of supply compared to demand, while other countries have received enough shots for a tiny fraction of their populations. The highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus is driving major outbreaks in parts of Asia and Africa.

The pandemic has also disrupted global vaccine campaigns for other diseases and set back initiatives to combat other health threats, including malaria, polio, and tuberculosis.

Also Tuesday, the White House announced that Biden has nominated Rahul Gupta to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Source: STAT