Policy

Burwell to Lead American University as President

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell greets members before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing in Longworth on the HHS Fiscal Year 2017 budget request, February 10, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will become the first woman to lead American University in Washington, D.C., according to spokeswoman Camille Lepre. Burwell, who lives in the district, will succeed Neil Kerwin as president and assumes her responsibilities on June 1. 

Burwell joined HHS in 2014, the first year that the new marketplaces began providing benefits to consumers. She took over from Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the rocky debut of the exchanges. Sebelius was in charge when the federal website HealthCare.gov, which many states relied on to enroll people, initially did not work during its October 2013 launch. Burwell worked on stabilizing the marketplaces and accelerating a shift in programs such as Medicare toward alternative pay models that incentivized medical providers to offer more coordinated health care to patients.

Burwell served in the Clinton presidency, working in a variety of positions throughout the administration including White House deputy chief of staff. She later became the chief operating officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and oversaw the Walmart Foundation. She joined the Obama administration in 2013 as the Office of Management and Budget director before being nominated as HHS secretary.

Burwell earned an A.B. in government from Harvard University, and earned a B.A. in philosophy, policy and economics from the University of Oxford.

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