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Secretary of Health and Human Services


Secretary of Health and Human Services

Secretary of Health and Human Services of the United States of America
Flag of the Secretary of Health and Human Services
Seal of the Department of Health and Human Services
Kathleen Sebelius
since April 28, 2009
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Member of Cabinet
Reports to The President
Seat Washington, D.C.
Appointer The President
Term length No fixed term
Constituting instrument Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953
67 U.S.C. § 3501
Formation August 3, 1979
First holder Patricia Roberts Harris
Succession Twelfth
(presidential line of succession)
Deputy Deputy Secretary of Commerce
Salary Executive Schedule, level 1

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 1979, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was renamed the Department of Health and Human Services, and its education functions transferred to the new Department of Education. Patricia Roberts Harris headed the department before and after it was renamed.

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, before confirmation is considered by the full United States Senate.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act the role of the Secretary has been greatly expanded.[1][2]

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in as Secretary of Health and Human Services by the United States Senate on April 29, 2009.[3]


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. It 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.[4]

After the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks, the position has held a unique significance in the War on Terrorism. Upon his departure, then-Secretary Tommy Thompson remarked "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do..." Scholars concur, arguing that an attack on food (particularly milk) could affect approximately 100,000 people.[5]

List of Secretaries


      Democratic       Republican

Secretaries of Health, Education, and Welfare

No. Portrait Name State of Residence Took Office Left Office President(s)
1 Oveta Culp Hobby Texas April 11, 1953 July 31, 1955 Dwight D. Eisenhower
2 Marion B. Folsom New York August 2, 1955 July 31, 1958
3 Arthur S. Flemming Ohio August 1, 1958 January 19, 1961
4 Abraham A. Ribicoff Connecticut January 21, 1961 July 13, 1962 John F. Kennedy
5 Anthony J. Celebrezze Ohio July 31, 1962 August 17, 1965
Lyndon B. Johnson
6 John W. Gardner California August 18, 1965 March 1, 1968
7 Wilbur J. Cohen Michigan May 16, 1968 January 20, 1969
8 Robert Finch California January 21, 1969 June 23, 1970 Richard Nixon
9 Elliot Richardson Massachusetts June 24, 1970 January 29, 1973
10 Caspar Weinberger California February 12, 1973 August 8, 1975
Gerald Ford
11 F. David Mathews Alabama August 8, 1975 January 20, 1977
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Joseph A. Califano, Jr. District of Columbia January 25, 1977 August 3, 1979 Jimmy Carter
13 Patricia R. Harris District of Columbia August 3, 1979 May 4, 1980[6]

Secretaries of Health and Human Services

No. Portrait Name State of Residence Took Office Left Office President(s)
13 Patricia R. Harris District of Columbia May 4, 1980[6] January 20, 1981 Jimmy Carter
14 Richard Schweiker Pennsylvania January 22, 1981 February 3, 1983 Ronald Reagan
15 Margaret Heckler Massachusetts March 9, 1983 December 13, 1985
16 Otis R. Bowen Indiana December 13, 1985 January 20, 1989
17 Louis W. Sullivan Georgia March 1, 1989 January 20, 1993 George H. W. Bush
18 Donna Shalala Wisconsin January 22, 1993 January 20, 2001 Bill Clinton
19 Tommy Thompson Wisconsin February 2, 2001 January 26, 2005 George W. Bush
20 Mike Leavitt Utah January 26, 2005 January 20, 2009
21 Kathleen Sebelius Kansas April 28, 2009 Incumbent Barack Obama

Living former secretaries

Health, Education, and Welfare

Health and Human Services


External links

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services Official Website
  • RSS Feed
United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Secretary of Labor
12th in line Succeeded by
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Template:HHS agencies

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