WASHINGTON — With the presidential election a mere 83 days away, one of this city’s favorite parlor games has begun: speculation about who will hold various positions in the next administration.
If Joe Biden wins the presidency, he will have a lot of spots to fill, and a lot of possible candidates to fill them with. Here are some of the names that MedPage Today has been hearing about, along with the positions that they could be slotted into.
Vivek Murthy, MD: Murthy, 43, served as Surgeon General under President Obama and is currently heading up Biden’s healthcare team on the campaign. He is said to have a “lock” on becoming the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) should Biden get elected, and candidates for other jobs within HHS are reportedly being vetted through him. If Murthy does become HHS secretary, he would be an unusual choice for the position, according to a source familiar with the process of selecting officials in various administrations.
“Historically, we’ve seen that people who run HHS have been former governors” like Kathleen Sebelius or, in the case of current HHS secretary Alex Azar, “someone who managed a large manufacturing operation in a large, diverse company,” the source said.
Pete Buttigieg: The 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and one-time Democratic presidential candidate, might also be a possibility for HHS secretary, Bob Laszewski, founder and president of the healthcare consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates, in Alexandria, Virginia, said in an email. “Since he emphasized health care and had a plan very similar to Biden, I would put him on the list. Being from Indiana, he isn’t in a good spot to run for governor or senator — so an appointment is the next obvious step for him.”
Kavita Patel, MD: Patel, 46, a primary care physician as well as a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank here, is thought to be in the running to head up the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Patel served as director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement in the Obama White House, and is currently a member of the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC) at CMS.
Joshua Sharfstein, MD: Sharfstein, 51, the former head of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is being talked about for the FDA commissioner post. He is currently the vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He served as deputy FDA commissioner during the Obama administration.
Leana Wen, MD: Wen, 37, an emergency physician and the former health commissioner of Baltimore who also had a short — and somewhat controversial — tenure as the head of Planned Parenthood, is considered a possibility for assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS. She is currently visiting professor of health policy and management at George Washington University in Washington.
Rebekah Gee, MD: Gee, 44, is an obstetrician and the former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. She is best known for her innovative arrangement with Gilead, maker of the hepatitis C treatment sofosbuvir/velpatasvir (Epclusa), to provide the drug to Medicaid patients and prisoners in the state under a capped arrangement. She is currently CEO for health care services at LSU Health and is considered a possibility to head CMS.
Vin Gupta, MD: Gupta, a pulmonologist, is affiliate assistant professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is an advisor on Biden’s campaign and is considered a possible pick for Murthy’s old job of Surgeon General, the post currently held by Jerome Adams, MD. The job of Surgeon General is “a communications job,” the source mentioned earlier said. “You need someone who’s a doctor and a very good communicator.”
Sherry Glied, PhD: Glied, 59, is dean of the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in New York City. She served as assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS during the Obama administration, and is thought to be a possibility for heading CMS.
Julian Harris, MD: Harris is a partner at Deerfield Management Company, a New York investment firm specializing in healthcare. He led the healthcare team at the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration and is considered a possibility for one of the White House-related healthcare jobs, such as the healthcare lead at the Domestic Policy Council or the National Economic Council.
Allen Kachalia, MD, JD: Kachalia, currently senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, is considered a possibility to head the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Before coming to Johns Hopkins, Kachalia held a similar post at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Dave Chokshi, MD: Chokshi, the current New York City health commissioner, ascended to his post after the rather abrupt resignation earlier this month of Oxiris Barbot, MD, who reportedly clashed with Mayor Bill de Blasio in the city’s COVID-19 response. Chokshi is apparently being considered as assistant secretary of health at HHS.
Shantanu Agrawal, MD: Agrawal, is president and CEO of the National Quality Forum. He was a deputy administrator at CMS during the Obama administration and may be in the running for heading AHRQ, sources say.
Saad Omer, MBBS, PhD: Omer, the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health in New Haven, Connecticut, is being mentioned as a possibility to become assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS. Among many other posts, he formerly led a project on immunization systems and public health preparedness for Emory University in Atlanta.
Rhea Boyd, MD, MPH: Boyd, 35, is a pediatrician in the San Francisco area. She is thought to be in the mix for Surgeon General.
Other names mentioned as healthcare leadership possibilities in a Biden administration include Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, who served as national coordinator for health information technology in the Obama administration; Mayra Alvarez, MHA, associate director of the HHS Office of Minority Health under President Obama; and California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, MD.