(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden intends to nominate Mandy Cohen, North Carolina’s former health secretary who led the state’s response to the pandemic, to be director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

Cohen, an internal medicine physician, would replace Rochelle Walensky, who has said she plans to step down from the post at the end of June. Though the decision isn’t final and paperwork must still be completed, Cohen is the leading candidate, said the person, who asked not to be named as the process is ongoing. She was selected for her track record in federal and state government, as well as her experience as an industry executive at a network of primary-care practices, the person said.

If the nomination proceeds, Cohen would take the helm of a reshaped public health agency. Walensky, an infectious-disease expert, led the Atlanta-based CDC for more than two years, launching a top-to-bottom reorganization to address high-profile shortcomings identified during the pandemic, including flawed Covid-19 tests, inconsistent messaging and a slow response. Walensky’s departure comes in the wake of the end of the US public health emergency. 

Cohen and the CDC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The Washington Post first reported Biden’s plan to nominate Cohen.

White House Nominations

After obtaining a medical degree from Yale and a masters in public health from Harvard, Cohen took on different roles across government, including at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, where she worked her way up to chief of staff and later chief operations officer.

From 2017 to 2021, Cohen served as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, where her top priorities were combating the opioid epidemic, building a strong Medicaid program and improving early childhood education, according to the state health department’s website.

In January of 2022, Aledade Inc. said Cohen would serve as its executive vice president and chief executive officer of its health-services unit. A spokesperson for Aledade declined to comment.

Cohen’s formal nomination to CDC director would mark the second major health official that Biden has tapped for the Department of Health and Human Services this spring. In May, the White House said Biden will nominate National Cancer Institute head Monica Bertagnolli to lead the full National Institutes of Health, replacing Francis Collins, who served as agency director for more than a decade. The NIH has gone nearly a year and a half without a permanent director.

Bertagnolli must be confirmed by the US Senate. The top CDC post, however, doesn’t currently require such confirmation.

There are other top roles the administration still needs to fill: Anthony Fauci, stepped down last year as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after nearly four decades as the government’s top infectious-disease expert. The White House hasn’t yet named a chief for its forthcoming Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response. 

Read More: CDC Director Announces Surprise Exit as Covid Emergency Ends

As CDC director, Cohen would face significant scrutiny from lawmakers. House Republicans are scheduled to hold a hearing next week intended to examine the agency’s performance during the pandemic. Current director Walensky has appeared before Congress repeatedly to speak to the agency’s challenged pandemic response and efforts to become better prepared for the next major health threat. 

--With assistance from Jordan Fabian.

(Updates with details throughout.)

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