by Jasmine Phiri
December 15, 2017
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
Dr. Mandy Cohen was appointed to the role of Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in January 2017 by Governor Roy Cooper. Secretary Cohen and her team work tirelessly to improve the health, safety and well-being of all North Carolinians. DHHS has 17,000 employees and an annual budget of $20 billion serving as the home to NC Medicaid, Public Health, Mental Health/IDD/SUD, State Operated Hospitals and Facilities, Economic Services, Adult and Child Services, Early Childhood Education, Employment Services, and Health Services Regulation. Secretary Cohen and her team are focused on responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, building a robust, efficient Medicaid program, improving early childhood health, safety and education, combatting the opioid crisis, and ensuring equitable access to health resources.
Dr. Cohen leads the COVID-19 response for the State of North Carolina. Her team at NC DHHS oversees the operational response – including hospital surge capacity, testing capacity, tracing capacity, and PPE availability – in addition to constructing the advanced data infrastructure necessary to collect and analyze key data points to drive decision making. Secretary Cohen also leads the development of North Carolina policy guidance which informs the actions needed to slow COVID-19 spread.
Secretary Cohen has made closing the coverage gap in North Carolina a key priority. Additionally, Dr. Cohen’s “buying health” agenda heavily focuses on broad drivers of health (often referred to as the social determinants of health). Under Secretary Cohen’s leadership, North Carolina implemented the first-in-the-nation statewide coordinated care network, NCCARE360, to electronically connect those with identified needs to community resources and allow for a feedback loop on the outcome of that connection. This private-public partnership has been a key feature of NC’s COVID response and backbone to the innovative Health Opportunities pilot authorized under North Carolina’s 1115 Medicaid waiver.
Secretary Cohen is an internal medicine physician and has experience leading complex health organizations. Before coming to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, she was the Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She brings a deep understanding of health care to the state and has been responsible for implementing policies for Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace.
Secretary Cohen has been recognized a national leader for her work at DHHS. In February of 2019, Modern Healthcare named Secretary Cohen one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare. In September of 2020, Secretary Cohen was awarded the Leadership in Public Health Practice Award from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health for her strong leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic response, including her use of data and ability to communicate with empathy, compassion, and transparency.
Secretary Cohen is also an Adjunct Professor in Health Policy & Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health.
A graduate of Cornell University, she received her medical degree from Yale School of Medicine and a Master’s in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. She trained in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Secretary Cohen is married to Sam Cohen, a health care regulatory attorney and Senior Vice President for Health Policy at Curi. They have two daughters, ages 6 and 8.