Tag Archive 'politics'

Mar 17 2009

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Is anyone good enough to be assistant secretary of aging?

Ed Cohen

March 16, 2009

To hear two former assistant secretaries for aging in the Department of Health and Human Service tell it – and I did this morning — the next assistant secretary for aging will have to be part Solomon, part salesman and part Superman.

Jeanette C. Takamura, dean and professor in the School of Social Work at Columbia University, and Fernando Torres-Gil, associate dean and director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging in the UCLA School of Public Affairs, both headed the Administration on Aging within the Clinton administration’s Department of Health and Human Services. In a session that asked what the next assistant secretary of aging should know, they offered these descriptors of the ideal candidate:

Intelligent…because Obama is intelligent and has surrounded himself with high-brain-power individuals.

Knowledgeable about science…because this administration plans to rely on science to shape policy, as opposed to the previous administration, which let ideology be its guide.

A quick study of organizations…because Health and Human Services is a vast and complicated bureaucracy.

Tough…enough to go toe-to-toe with other smart and able individuals elsewhere in the administration, because there will be plenty (see No. 1 above).

Diplomatic…yet aggressive and with the social skills to work as a team and not “a bull in the china shop,” in the words of Torres-Gil.

Tireless…because it’s a 24/7 job. Takamura recalled routinely working past 1 a.m.

Impossibly well-rounded. Torres-Gil said the ideal candidate would have a Ph.D., M.D., an M.S.W. (master of social work), a master’s in gerontology and a J.D. (law degree). The candidate should also have run for political office and have run a state agency.

The assistant secretary for aging position remains vacant. President Obama has nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to head HHS.

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