President Joe Biden made several campaign promises to improve or safeguard health care for all Americans with a focus on scientific and medical evidence. Shortly after the transfer of power, the Biden administration appointed and nominated public health experts to lead the various federal agencies dedicated to safety and biomedical research.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Biden nominated Xavier Becerra for secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As attorney general in California, Becerra was at the forefront of multiple legal efforts regarding health care. He led 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act and has been vocal about reforming women’s health.

“If you look at his body of work, he is not your traditional attorney. His body of work in the health area is substantial,” Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said.  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Biden appointed Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Walensky is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an expert on AIDS and HIV.

“I began my medical career at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and I’ve spent my life ever since working to research, treat, and combat infectious diseases,” Walensky tweeted. “I’m honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at CDC. We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts.”

Surgeon General

Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, who served as U.S. surgeon general under former President Barack Obama, will once again assume the position. During his previous tenure as surgeon general, Murthy created initiatives to dispel misconceptions about vaccinations, promote smoking cessation, address drug and alcohol addiction, and promote increased physical activity.

“I never dreamed I’d have the honor to once again serve as surgeon general,” Murthy said. “In this moment of crisis, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help end this pandemic, be a voice for science, and support our nation on its path to rebuilding and healing.”

Health Disparities

Biden appointed Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, a professor at Yale University who is an expert on healthcare inequality, to address health disparities. As co-chair of the coronavirus advisory board, she highlighted how existing health disparities are exacerbating the pandemic’s unequal burden on Black and Hispanic Americans.  

“I’m proud to go to work with leaders who are deeply committed to science and to centering equity in our response to the pandemic,” Nunez-Smith said during an online event.

The new appointments set a different tone for federal healthcare leadership, and most Americans approve of Biden’s post-election conduct.