Amid Biden health secretary candidate reports, Burwell plans to concentrate on AU

Burwell served as health secretary under Obama

Amid Biden health secretary candidate reports, Burwell plans to concentrate on AU

University President Sylvia Burwell discusses her diversity and inclusion strategy during an interview in January 2018. 

Following reports that President-elect Joe Biden is considering American University President Sylvia Burwell among candidates for health secretary, Burwell said she is focused on her University efforts amid the pandemic.

“President-elect Biden is bringing together a dedicated team of experts to address the crises facing our nation,” Burwell said in a statement sent to The Eagle on Saturday. “My plan and ongoing focus is protecting the health and safety of our AU community, ramping up our activities for the spring semester, and continuing AU’s momentum in research, innovation, and learning.”

Burwell did not respond directly to questions of whether the Biden team has reached out to her, or whether she was considering the offer. 

Burwell served as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017, before serving as AU’s first female president. Burwell directed the White House’s Office of Management and Budget from 2013 to 2014. 

There isn’t much precedent for former department secretaries reprising their roles, School of Public Affairs professor Ron Elving wrote Friday in an email to The Eagle. 

“Former Cabinet members usually have had a ‘been there done that’ attitude unless there’s a special issue hanging fire,” Elving said in the email. “Health care could be that, perhaps … for [Burwell].”

Politico and The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Biden’s transition team is considering three candidates for health secretary: Burwell, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that a person close to Burwell said that she has no plans to leave AU. 

The Eagle has not independently verified the reporting from WSJ and Politico, and Biden’s transition team did not respond to requests for comment.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Biden selected Becerra to serve as health secretary. Burwell congratulated Becerra in a tweet.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

saustin@theeagleonline.com, dpapscun@theeagleonline.com 

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