Karen DeSalvo to leave ONC; Vindell Washington named National Coordinator

Karen DeSalvo will step down from her role as national coordinator for health IT and will be replaced by current Principal Deputy National Coordinator Vindell Washington (pictured right). 

Vindell Washington

DeSalvo, who has also been serving as acting assistant secretary for health, did not cite a reason for leaving the position in her letter to ONC staffers, as the Obama administration winds down. In an email to Health and Human Services Department staffers, Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said that DeSalvo, who has headed up the Office of the National Coordinator since January 2014, will leave that post Aug. 12; she will, however, continue to serve in her other HHS capacity. 

"During her tenure, ONC has worked with other federal partners and the private sector to update the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan and develop a Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, both of which chart a person-centered path for improving health outcomes by unlocking health data through tools like open application programming interfaces,” Burwell said. “She has also co-chaired the Department’s Delivery System Reform efforts, which set historic goals and worked to leverage the resources of the Department to build a more person-centered health system that encourages more coordinated care.”

DeSalvo, in her farewell email, thanked colleagues and touted efforts to move ONC into the “post-HITECH era.” She also lauded Washington as a more than capable successor.

“There is really no one I can imagine I would feel more thrilled about handing over the role of National Coordinator to than Vindell Washington,” DeSalvo said. “He is a thoughtful, brilliant, passionate and extremely capable leader. In his time here, it has been clear to me that he shares our values and has the same trust and admiration for the ONC team that I have. I have come to rely upon him and look forward to watching his leadership continue to unfold. I have every confidence in his ability and drive to steward our critical work in to the next chapter.”

Washington, in a letter to ONC staffers, called health IT a “team sport” and called the transition, despite less than six months remaining in the administration, “an excellent opportunity to refocus.”