Mandy K. Cohen, MD, MPH, officially stepped in as Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Cohen, the daughter of an emergency room nurse practitioner, said her Mom’s work helped shape her perspective on healthcare. “She’s one of the most incredible clinicians I’ve ever known. Through her eyes, I first saw the impact that healthcare professionals make every day in the lives of their community. And that positive impact is why I charted my own career path into medicine,” Cohen said in a post for Aledade.
Prior to the CDC, Cohen worked as secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services for five years and received high praise from the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA). She was recognized for her leadership and transparent communication during the COVID-19 pandemic and was named “Tarheel of the Year” by The News & Observer in December 2020. “Dr. Cohen was a very collaborative and inclusive leader at NCDHHS, and this approach extended to her engagement with and for the nursing profession,” Tina Gordon, NCNA CEO, said in NurseJournal. “Her mother is a nurse practitioner, so she is very familiar with the practice of nursing, including advanced practice.”
According to NurseJournal, the ANA expects to engage in a collaborative role with Cohen and is hopeful that engagement will lead to “productive policy and program development to address nursing concerns such as staff shortages, working environment, and mental health.”
A Yale School of Medicine graduate, Cohen made her ambitions known early on. “She saw a broken health care system and, she saw a role for federal and state government in fixing that,” Dr. Howard Forman, director of the MD/MBA program and professor of radiology and biomedical imaging at Yale. “We need a system built around the idea of whole person care,” Cohen said in Aledade.
Cohen’s appointment comes at a time of increased concern for nurses amid the workforce shortage. A recent study by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers revealed approximately 800,000 registered nurses plan to leave the workforce by 2027. Combined with the 100,000 RNs who left during the COVID-19 pandemic, they represent one-fifth of the 4.5 million nurses working in the U.S. healthcare system. Additionally, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported more than 90 thousand qualified applicants were turned away from nursing schools in 2021 due to a lack of faculty.