BU Alumni Web

Obama Chooses Another BU Grad

Howard Koh to be Health and Human Services assistant secretary

| From BUSPH Insider | By Lisa Chedekel

Howard Koh (SPH’95)

Howard Koh, a former professor at the Boston University Schools of Public Health and of Medicine, has been tapped by President Barack Obama as assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If he is confirmed by the Senate, Koh would be charged with shaping the nation’s public health agenda at a time when expansion of the government’s role in health care has broad political support. The assistant secretary for health is in charge of the HHS Office of Public Health and Science, which oversees all federal programs that coordinate vaccines, HIV-AIDs policy, minority health, and blood safety.

Koh (SPH’95) was the Massachusetts commissioner of public health from 1997 to 2003, and during his tenure made prevention a top priority. Before becoming commissioner, he taught at MED and at SPH, where he was appointed an assistant professor of epidemiology in 1986 and became a full professor in 1994.

At present Koh is the Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), where he is also associate dean for public health practice and director of the Division of Public Health Practice. He has served as principal investigator on several research grants related to community-based participatory research, cancer prevention, health disparities, tobacco control, and emergency preparedness. He also is director of the HSPH Center for Public Health Preparedness.

Ann Aschengrau, an SPH professor and associate chair of epidemiology, says Koh is “just an outstanding and terrific person, in terms of his experience and credentials.” She notes that he is “quadruple-board-certified” — in internal medicine, hematology, medical oncology, and dermatology.

Koh has published more than 200 articles in medical and public health journals and has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Award from the American Cancer Society. President Bill Clinton appointed him to the National Cancer Advisory Board (2000-2002).

A graduate of Yale College and Yale University School of Medicine, Koh completed his postgraduate training and chief residencies at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) and Massachusetts General Hospital. He holds a master’s degree in epidemiology and biostatistics from the School of Public Health. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the Centers for Disease Control’s Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response.

In recognition of his contributions to the early detection and prevention of melanoma, the Boston Red Sox designated Koh as a Medical All-Star in 2003 and invited him to throw the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park.

Koh is the second member of his family to be nominated to a top post in the Obama administration: his brother Harold, dean of Yale Law School, has been nominated to be the State Department’s legal advisor.

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