mHealth advocate one step closer to taking reins at FCC

The Senate Commerce Committee has approved the Obama administration's nominee to lead the Federal Communications Commission, according to Reuters. Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and former telecom executive, has strong ties to the mHealth Alliance, founded in 2009 by the UN Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Vodafone Foundation, made with a goal to "harness the power of wireless technologies to improve health outcomes in low and middle income countries."

Wheeler, managing director of Core Capital in Washington D.C., is an emeritus member of the mHealth Alliance Partnership Board and a former Chairman of the Partnership Board, a position he held during the organization's first three years. Karl Brown, Associate Director at the Rockefeller Foundation, replaced Wheeler as the new Chairman of the mHealth Alliance Partnership Board in February.

According to the organization's website, the mHealth Alliance is governed by the Partnership Board which is made up of industry leaders from the health, technology, and business sectors, as well as representatives from government bodies and leading NGOs. The Partnership Board's purpose is to "guide the Alliance in all matters, including decisions related to its mission, programmatic focus, growth, and development toward becoming an independent and sustainable organization."

In May, Patricia Mechael, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance, issued a statement regarding Wheeler's nomination to head the FCC: "Tom offered unequaled experience and expertise in the telecommunications industry as an Alliance Board Member, both as an entrepreneur and a policy expert. He has for years been an innovator and thought leader in the telecommunications and wireless space, and we have every confidence that his vast experience, in addition to his passion for telecommunications and his deep-seated commitment to advancing technology in this country, will add tremendous value to his new organization."

If approved by the full Senate, a process that could take months, Wheeler would replace former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski who has joined the Aspen Institute thinktank. Wheeler has big shoes to fill at FCC. In the area of healthcare, Genachowski was a strong advocate of wireless technology and its implications for advancing modern medicine. During his four-year tenure, he oversaw some very high profile FCC initiatives including the creation of a $400 million Healthcare Connect Fund, Medical Body Area Networks, Medical Micropower Networks, Medical Device Radio Communications Service, and wireless medical device testing.

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