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United States Secretary of Health and Human Services

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
Seal of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.svg
Seal of the Department
Flag of the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.svg
Flag of the Secretary
Alex Azar

since January 29, 2018
United States Department of Health and Human Services
StyleMr. Secretary
The Honorable
Member ofCabinet
Reports toPresident of the United States
SeatHubert H. Humphrey Building, Washington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term lengthNo fixed term
Constituting instrumentReorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953
67 Stat. 631
42 U.S.C. § 3501
PrecursorSecretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
FormationMay 4, 1980
First holderPatricia Roberts Harris
DeputyDeputy Secretary of Health and Human Services
SalaryExecutive 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.[2] Patricia Roberts Harris headed the department before and after it was renamed.[3]

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,[4] 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.[5] 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,[6] and on January 24, 2018, Azar was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 55 to 43.[7] Azar was sworn in on January 29, 2018.[8]

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 flag of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, the predecessor to the current office.
The flag of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, the predecessor to the current office.

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.[9]

The Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) was reorganized into a Department of Education and a Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS).

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).[10]

List of secretaries of health and human services


  Democratic (8)   Republican (15)   Independent (1)

Secretaries of Health, Education, and Welfare

No. Portrait Name State of residence Took office Left office President(s)
Oveta Culp Hobby Texas April 11, 1953 July 31, 1955 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Marion B. Folsom New York August 2, 1955 July 31, 1958
Arthur S. Flemming Ohio August 1, 1958 January 19, 1961
Abraham A. Ribicoff Connecticut January 21, 1961 July 13, 1962 John F. Kennedy
Anthony J. Celebrezze Ohio July 31, 1962 August 17, 1965
Lyndon B. Johnson
John W. Gardner, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.jpg
John W. Gardner California August 18, 1965 March 1, 1968
Wilbur J. Cohen Michigan May 16, 1968 January 20, 1969
Robert H. Finch California January 21, 1969 June 23, 1970 Richard Nixon
Elliot L. Richardson Massachusetts June 24, 1970 January 29, 1973
Caspar Weinberger official photo.jpg
Caspar Weinberger California February 12, 1973 August 8, 1975
Gerald Ford
F. David Mathews.jpg
F. David Mathews Alabama August 8, 1975 January 20, 1977
JAC AR 2007.jpg
Joseph A. Califano Jr. District of Columbia January 25, 1977 August 3, 1979 Jimmy Carter
Patricia R. Harris official portrait.jpg
Patricia Roberts Harris District of Columbia August 3, 1979 May 4, 1980[11]

Secretaries of Health and Human Services

No. Portrait Name State of residence Took office Left office President(s)
Patricia R. Harris official portrait.jpg
Patricia Roberts Harris District of Columbia May 4, 1980[11] January 20, 1981 Jimmy Carter
Secretary Richard Schweiker.jpg
Richard S. Schweiker Pennsylvania January 22, 1981 February 3, 1983 Ronald Reagan
Speedy Long.jpg
Speedy Long Louisiana February 3, 1983 March 9, 1983
Margaret M. Heckler Massachusetts March 9, 1983 December 13, 1985
Otis R. Bowen.jpg
Otis R. Bowen Indiana December 13, 1985 March 1, 1989
Louis Wade Sullivan Georgia March 1, 1989 January 20, 1993 George H. W. Bush
Shalala portrait.jpg
Donna Shalala Wisconsin January 22, 1993 January 20, 2001 Bill Clinton
Tommy Thompson 1.jpg
Tommy G. Thompson Wisconsin February 2, 2001 January 26, 2005 George W. Bush
Mike Leavitt.jpg
Michael O. Leavitt Utah January 26, 2005 January 20, 2009
Charles E. Johnson Utah January 20, 2009 April 28, 2009 Barack Obama
Kathleen Sebelius official portrait (cropped).jpg
Kathleen Sebelius Kansas April 28, 2009 June 9, 2014
Sylvia Mathews Burwell official portrait (cropped).jpg
Sylvia Mathews Burwell District of Columbia June 9, 2014 January 20, 2017
Norris Cochran (cropped).jpg
Norris Cochran Florida January 20, 2017 February 10, 2017 Donald Trump
Tom Price official photo (cropped).jpg
Tom Price Georgia February 10, 2017 September 29, 2017
Don J. Wright official portrait (cropped).jpg
Don J. Wright Virginia September 29, 2017 October 10, 2017
Eric Hargan official portrait (cropped).jpg
Eric Hargan Illinois October 10, 2017 January 29, 2018
Alex Azar official portrait (cropped).jpg
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:[12]

  1. Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  2. General Counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services
  3. Assistant Secretary for Administration
  4. Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
  5. Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  6. Commissioner of Food and Drugs
  7. Director of the National Institutes of Health
  8. Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
  9. Other Assistant Secretaries (following in the order they took the oath of office)
    1. Assistant Secretary for Health
    2. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
    3. Assistant Secretary for Legislation
    4. Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
    5. Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources
    6. Assistant Secretary for Aging
  10. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  11. Director, Region 4 (Atlanta, Georgia)

Living former secretaries

Department of Health, Education, and Welfare

As of November 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 (1935-12-06) December 6, 1935 (age 84)
Joseph A. Califano Jr. 1977–1979 (1931-05-15) May 15, 1931 (age 89)

Department of Health and Human Services

A gathering of five secretaries in June 2015
A gathering of five secretaries in June 2015

As of November 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 (1933-11-03) November 3, 1933 (age 87)
Donna Shalala 1993–2001 (1941-02-14) February 14, 1941 (age 79)
Tommy Thompson 2001–2005 (1941-11-19) November 19, 1941 (age 79)
Mike Leavitt 2005–2009 (1951-02-11) February 11, 1951 (age 69)
Kathleen Sebelius 2009–2014 (1948-05-15) May 15, 1948 (age 72)
Sylvia Mathews Burwell 2014–2017 (1965-06-23) June 23, 1965 (age 55)
Tom Price 2017 (1954-10-08) October 8, 1954 (age 66)


  1. ^ "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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Patricia R. Harris (1977–1979)—Miller Center". Archived from the original on February 7, 2017. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  4. ^ "Jurisdiction | The United States Senate Committee on Finance". Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Pear, Robert (January 24, 2018). "Senate Confirms Trump Nominee Alex Azar as Health Secretary". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The President's Cabinet". Ben's Guide. February 1, 2007. Retrieved November 15, 2007.
  10. ^ "HHS Agencies & Offices |". Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  11. ^ a b 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.
  12. ^ "Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Health and Human Services". Federal Register. February 20, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2016.

External links

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Eugene Scalia
as Secretary of Labor
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Health and Human Services
Succeeded by
Ben Carson
as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Secretary of Labor
Eugene Scalia
12th in line Succeeded by
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Ben Carson
This page was last edited on 27 October 2020, at 18:58
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