Mandy Cohen

Key communicator

2 minute read

The U.S.’s COVID-19 public-health emergency officially ended on May 11, 2023. Almost exactly a month later, President Joe Biden announced that internal-medicine physician Dr. Mandy Cohen would take over as director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), taking the reins at the world’s most influential public-health agency at a pivotal moment in its history. 

The CDC’s reputation took a beating during the pandemic, as critics on both sides of the aisle took issue with its communication about and management of the virus. When Cohen took the agency’s top spot, after previously leading North Carolina’s department of health and human services, her first priority was improving the agency’s communication to rebuild trust and authority. She’s made it her mission to break down silos within the CDC’s own walls and has committed to clearly and succinctly conveying information about COVID-19 and other health issues to the public.

The CDC has not always been popular under Cohen—there was significant outcry to the recent decision to strip down isolation guidance for people who have COVID-19—but she has not let the criticism stop her from doing ambitious work. 

Cohen is now spearheading a new effort to collect real-time data from hospitals across the country, to get a better sense of the illnesses that are affecting people nationwide and pick up on and respond to “unusual patterns” before they get to a crisis point. “When you get sick, you don’t walk into a public-health department,” Cohen says. “You walk into an emergency room.” And now, CDC will be able to see what happens when you do.

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