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Mandy Cohen, North Carolina's top health official, will leave her job

Updated at 5:03 p.m. Nov. 30

North Carolina’s top health official is stepping down. Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, announced on Tuesday that she will leave her position.

North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen
N.C. Department of Public Safety
The News & Observer
North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen gives an update on the coronavirus on April 17.

The news was first reported Tuesday morning by television station WTVD.

Cohen has served as DHHS secretary for nearly five years since being appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper in January 2017. She’s led the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020 and become a fixture at statewide news conferences.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve this state at such an important moment in history,” Cohen said in a news release Tuesday.

Prior to coming to North Carolina, Cohen worked as the chief operating officer and chief of staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. During her time as DHHS secretary, she spearheaded the state’s launch of Medicaid managed care. Cohen is an internal medicine physician.

“Mandy Cohen has shown extraordinary leadership during her tenure and she has worked every day during this pandemic to help keep North Carolinians healthy and safe,” Cooper said in a news release. “We are stronger because of her efforts and I am enormously grateful for her service.”

Cohen will be replaced by Kody Kinsley, the state’s current DHHS deputy secretary for health, beginning Jan. 1. Kinsley, a native of Wilmington, has worked at DHHS for nearly four years, where he has overseen the state’s response to the opioid epidemic and assisted with COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts, among other things. According to Cooper’s office, Kinsley will be the first openly gay cabinet secretary in North Carolina history.

Cohen appeared at a news conference Tuesday afternoon with other members of the state's coronavirus task force, where she called her five years at DHHS "amazing ... but challenging." She said she's planning for some "rest and recovery" time before thinking about her next steps.

“I’m not planning to run for office," Cohen said, laughing. "I am looking at opportunities that allow me to continue this impact—to improve the health and well-being of communities. I don’t know what that will look like exactly yet, but no plans to run for public office.”

The outgoing health secretary added that she and her family "have fallen in love" with North Carolina and that she hopes her next job keeps her in the state.

Watch the news conference here:

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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