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United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
|United States Secretary of Health and Human Services|
Seal of the Department
Flag of the Secretary
|United States Department of Health and Human Services|
|Reports to||President of the United States|
|Seat||Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Washington, D.C.|
with Senate advice and consent
|Term length||No fixed term|
|Constituting instrument||Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953
67 Stat. 631
42 U.S.C. § 3501
|Precursor||Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare|
|Formation||August 3, 1979|
|First holder||Patricia Roberts Harris|
|Deputy||Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services|
|Salary||Executive Schedule, level I|
The United States secretary of health and human services is the head of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, concerned with health matters. The Secretary is a member of the president's Cabinet. The office was formerly Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. In 1980, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was renamed the Department of Health and Human Services, and its education functions and Rehabilitation Services Administration were transferred to the new Department of Education. Patricia Roberts Harris headed the department before and after it was renamed.
Nominations to the office of Secretary of HHS are referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid, before confirmation is considered by the full United States Senate.
Donald Trump selected then-Congressman Tom Price to be the 23rd secretary of the health and human services. Price was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 10, 2017 and resigned on September 29, 2017. Trump then named Don J. Wright, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, as acting secretary until Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan was sworn in on October 10, 2017.
On November 13, 2017, Trump nominated former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar to fill the position permanently. Azar's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee took place on January 9, 2018, and on January 24, 2018, Azar was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 55 to 43. Azar was sworn in on January 29, 2018.
From 2012 to 2017, Azar was president of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly and Company, a major drug company, and a member of the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a large pharmaceutical lobby.
The duties of the secretary revolve around human conditions and concerns in the United States. This includes advising the president on matters of health, welfare, and income security programs. The secretary strives to administer the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out approved programs and make the public aware of the objectives of the department.
The Department of Health and Human Services oversees 11 agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
List of secretaries of health and human services
Secretaries of Health, Education, and Welfare
|No.||Portrait||Name||State of residence||Took office||Left office||President(s)|
|1||Oveta Culp Hobby||Texas||April 11, 1953||July 31, 1955||Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|2||Marion B. Folsom||New York||August 2, 1955||July 31, 1958|
|3||Arthur S. Flemming||Ohio||August 1, 1958||January 19, 1961|
|4||Abraham A. Ribicoff||Connecticut||January 21, 1961||July 13, 1962||John F. Kennedy|
|5||Anthony J. Celebrezze||Ohio||July 31, 1962||August 17, 1965|
|Lyndon B. Johnson|
|6||John W. Gardner||California||August 18, 1965||March 1, 1968|
|7||Wilbur J. Cohen||Michigan||May 16, 1968||January 20, 1969|
|8||Robert H. Finch||California||January 21, 1969||June 23, 1970||Richard Nixon|
|9||Elliot L. Richardson||Massachusetts||June 24, 1970||January 29, 1973|
|10||Caspar Weinberger||California||February 12, 1973||August 8, 1975|
|11||F. David Mathews||Alabama||August 8, 1975||January 20, 1977|
|12||Joseph A. Califano Jr.||District of Columbia||January 25, 1977||August 3, 1979||Jimmy Carter|
|13||Patricia Roberts Harris||District of Columbia||August 3, 1979||May 4, 1980|
Secretaries of Health and Human Services
|No.||Portrait||Name||State of Residence||Took office||Left office||President(s)|
|13||Patricia Roberts Harris||District of Columbia||May 4, 1980||January 20, 1981||Jimmy Carter|
|14||Richard S. Schweiker||Pennsylvania||January 22, 1981||February 3, 1983||Ronald Reagan|
|–||Speedy Long||Louisiana||February 3, 1983||March 9, 1983|
|15||Margaret M. Heckler||Massachusetts||March 9, 1983||December 13, 1985|
|16||Otis R. Bowen||Indiana||December 13, 1985||March 1, 1989|
|17||Louis Wade Sullivan||Georgia||March 1, 1989||January 20, 1993||George H. W. Bush|
|18||Donna Shalala||Wisconsin||January 22, 1993||January 20, 2001||Bill Clinton|
|19||Tommy G. Thompson||Wisconsin||February 2, 2001||January 26, 2005||George W. Bush|
|20||Michael O. Leavitt||Utah||January 26, 2005||January 20, 2009|
|–||Charles E. Johnson||Utah||January 20, 2009||April 28, 2009||Barack Obama|
|21||Kathleen Sebelius||Kansas||April 28, 2009||June 9, 2014|
|22||Sylvia Mathews Burwell||District of Columbia||June 9, 2014||January 20, 2017|
|–||Norris Cochran||Florida||January 20, 2017||February 10, 2017||Donald Trump|
|23||Tom Price||Georgia||February 10, 2017||September 29, 2017|
|–||Don J. Wright||Virginia||September 29, 2017||October 10, 2017|
|–||Eric Hargan||Illinois||October 10, 2017||January 29, 2018|
|24||Alex Azar||Indiana||January 29, 2018||Incumbent|
Line of succession
The line of succession for the Secretary of Health and Human Services is as follows:
- Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services.
- General Counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services
- Assistant Secretary for Administration
- Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
- Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- Commissioner of Food and Drugs
- Director of the National Institutes of Health
- Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
- Other Assistant Secretaries (following in the order they took the oath of office)
- Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Director, Region 4 (Atlanta, Georgia)
Living former secretaries
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
As of August 2020, there are two living former secretaries of health, education and welfare, the older being Joseph A. Califano Jr. (served 1977–1979, born 1931). The most recent secretary of health, education and welfare to die was Caspar Weinberger (served 1973–1975, born 1917), on March 28, 2006. The most recently serving secretary to die was Patricia Roberts Harris (served 1979–1980, born 1924) on March 23, 1985.
|Name||Term||Date of birth (and age)|
|F. David Mathews||1975–1977||December 6, 1935|
|Joseph A. Califano Jr.||1977–1979||May 15, 1931|
Department of Health and Human Services
As of August 2020, there are seven living former secretaries of health and human services, the oldest being Louis W. Sullivan (served 1989–1993, born 1933); The most recent secretary of health and human services to die was Margaret Heckler (served 1983–1985, born 1931), on August 6, 2018. The most recently serving secretary to die was Otis R. Bowen (served 1985–1989) on May 4, 2013.
|Name||Term||Date of birth (and age)|
|Louis W. Sullivan||1989–1993||November 3, 1933|
|Donna Shalala||1993–2001||February 14, 1941|
|Tommy Thompson||2001–2005||November 19, 1941|
|Mike Leavitt||2005–2009||February 11, 1951|
|Kathleen Sebelius||2009–2014||May 15, 1948|
|Sylvia Mathews Burwell||2014–2017||June 23, 1965|
|Tom Price||2017||October 8, 1954|
- "3 U.S. Code § 19 - Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
- Holbrook, M. Cay (February 6, 2017). Foundations of Education: History and theory of teaching children and youths with visual impairments. American Foundation for the Blind. ISBN 9780891283409.
- "Patricia R. Harris (1977–1979)—Miller Center". millercenter.org. Archived from the original on February 7, 2017. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
- "Jurisdiction | The United States Senate Committee on Finance". finance.senate.gov. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
- Baker, Peter; Thrush, Glenn; Haberman, Maggie (September 29, 2017). "Health Secretary Tom Price Resigns After Drawing Ire for Chartered Flights". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
- Goldstein, Amy; Eilperin, Juliet (January 9, 2018). "Senate Finance Committee evaluates Alex Azar to be the next HHS secretary". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
- Pear, Robert (January 24, 2018). "Senate Confirms Trump Nominee Alex Azar as Health Secretary". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
- "The President's Cabinet". Ben's Guide. February 1, 2007. Retrieved November 15, 2007.
- "HHS Agencies & Offices | HHS.gov". Retrieved November 10, 2017.
- Harris was Secretary on May 4, 1980, when the office changed names from Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to Secretary of Health and Human Services. Because the department merely changed names, she did not need to be confirmed again, and her term continued uninterrupted.
- "Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Health and Human Services". Federal Register. February 20, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- Official website
- Department Of Health And Human Services Meeting Notices and Rule Changes from The Federal Register RSS Feed
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Secretary of Labor
| Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Health and Human Services
as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
|U.S. presidential line of succession|
Secretary of Labor
|12th in line||Succeeded by
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
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