Washington DC: United States President Joe Biden has appointed Ashish Jha, an Indian-origin doctor and public health specialist as the new White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. Dr. Jha will take over from Jeff Zeints, who had been leading the Biden administration’s pandemic response.
“Dr. Jha is one of the leading public health experts in America, and a well known figure to many Americans from his wise and calming public presence. And as we enter a new moment in the pandemic — executing on my National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and managing the ongoing risks from COVID — Dr. Jha is the perfect person for the job,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday.
He also praised Zeints efforts, saying: “He is a man of service and an expert manager.”
Dr. Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, has worked on ebola and was co-chair of a commission that tackled the outbreak of the disease in West Africa in 2014, according to a biography from Brown University.
Dr. Jha take over at a time when close to a million Americans have died from COVID-19. The US has just witnessed a wave of the Omicron variant, even as news of a new subvariant BA.2 — causing surges of the pandemic in Europe — is being watched closely.
Two years into the pandemic and with three quarters of its population having received a single dose of the vaccine, the country is shifting to a different approach to managing COVID-19 as it shows signs of becoming endemic.
“We still have important work to do to protect Americans’ lives and well being,” Dr. Jha said on Twitter, as he acknowledged that “a lot” of progress had been made already.
“For a poor immigrant kid who left India not speaking a word of English… and found in America a nation willing to embrace me as one of her own… I am deeply honored for this chance to serve this country I love… and grateful to a President for the opportunity.”
Born in Pursaulia, Madhubani, Bihar, Ashish Kumar Jha and his family moved to Toronto in 1979. He was nine years old. In 1983 they moved to New Jersey in the US where he finished high school. He moved on to Columbia University, studying economics, and then to Harvard Medical School, where he headed the Harvard Global Health Institute. He was named Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in 2020.