Morita named to Biden COVID-19 Advisory Board

Dr. Julie Morita. photo courtesy Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

WASHINGTON — Dr. Julie Morita, the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former health commissioner for the City of Chicago, has been named to the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, the Biden-Harris Transition said in a statement Nov. 9. This is a team of “leading public health experts” who will advise President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the Transition’s COVID-19 staff.

It will be led by co-chairs Dr. David A. Kessler, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco who served as FDA commissioner from 1990 to 1997; Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as the 19th U.S. surgeon general from 2014-2017; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University and the associate dean for Health Equity Research at the Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Beth Cameron and Dr. Rebecca Katz are serving as advisors to the transition on COVID-19 and will work closely with the advisory board.

“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” said President-elect Biden. “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.”

The COVID-19 advisory board “will help guide the Biden-Harris transition in planning for the president-elect’s robust federal response. These leading scientists and public health experts will consult with state and local officials to determine the public health and economic steps necessary to get the virus under control, to deliver immediate relief to working families, to address ongoing racial and ethnic disparities, and to reopen our schools and businesses safely and effectively.”

In addition to her current position at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and her previous position as health commissioner in Chicago, Morita “is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and has served on many state, local, and national health committees, including the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Community Based Solutions to Promote Health Equity in the United States.”

According to the RWJF Website, Morita “oversees all programming, policy, research and communications activities” at the foundation, which is described as “the nation’s largest private philanthropy dedicated solely to improving the nation’s health.”

Prior to joining RWJF, Morita “helped lead the Chicago Department of Public Health for nearly two decades, first as a medical director, then as chief medical officer,” the RWJF Website states. “In 2015, she was appointed to the department’s top position, commissioner. In that role, she oversaw the public health needs of 2.7 million residents in the nation’s third largest city.”

According to the RWJF, Morita began her medical career as a pediatrician in Tucson, Ariz., before moving into public health as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Influenced deeply by her own family history, Morita has been a lifelong advocate of equity issues,” the RWJF Website states. “As children, both of her parents, Mototsugu and Betty Morita, were detained in Japanese internment camps during World War II. They and their extended families were uprooted from their homes, communities, and jobs in the states of Washington and Oregon and transferred to a detention camp in Idaho. Having grown up hearing stories about the harsh and unjust treatment her grandparents, parents, and thousands of others endured, Morita has used that knowledge to pursue health equity in every aspect of her work.”

Morita, who was born and raised in Chicago, earned her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Illinois, and her medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School. She completed her residency at the University of Minnesota.
Nine other health professionals make out the rest of the advisory board.

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