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ONC names Karen DeSalvo, MD, new national coordinator for HIT

December 19, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal, Assistant Editor, Healthcare Informatics
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Karen DeSalvo, MD, (left) and Farzad Mostashari, MD, at the Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards Ceremony at HIMSS 2013 in New Orleans.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has confirmed Karen DeSalvo, MD, as its next leader.

DeSalvo currently serves as the health commissioner and senior health policy adviser to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. She replaces Farzad Mostashari, MD, who stepped down as ONC chief in October. Since Mostashari’s departure, Jacob Reider, MD, has been serving as the acting national coordinator. DeSalvo will begin serving in her new role Jan. 13.

In her work as New Orleans health commissioner, according to an internal letter from the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, DeSalvo increased the use of health information technology (HIT) within the city’s policy development, public health initiatives and emergency preparedness. She ensured that HIT was a foundational element of the health system's redesign in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She was on the steering committee for the Crescent City Beacon Community grant.

“It has been a tremendous honor and a life-changing experience to serve our community as health commissioner,” DeSalvo said in a statement on the city's website. “Mayor Landrieu has been a true champion for health, and I am grateful for his support and leadership throughout my appointment.”

In addition, DeSalvo oversaw preparation and construction of the city’s newest public hospital, which will have a fully integrated HIT network. She also was president of Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum, which oversees development of health information exchange technology within the state.

In an internal email to staff, outgoing helmsman Jacob Reider said, "I have been honored to serve as your acting national coordinator. Every minute has been inspiring, educational and energizing. Both Lisa and I appreciate all of the support each and every one of you have given us and will give to Karen. The work of 'team ONC' is a product of every team member contributing as much as we can toward our shared goals."

Reider said he will return to his role as chief medical officer for the ONC.