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Sylvia M.
Burwell

University president

Sylvia writes about: Education, Health

Sylvia M. Burwell is the president of American University and the first woman to serve as its president. A visionary leader with a commitment to education and research, Sylvia has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors and has helped to advance solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

From 2014 to 2017, Sylvia served as the 22nd secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, where she managed a trillion-dollar department encompassing the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and the Medicaid and Medicare programs. She also oversaw the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act and led the department’s responses to public health threats including the Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks. She earlier served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, where she worked with Congress in 2013 to negotiate a budget deal following the first shutdown of the federal government in 17 years. She has also served as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, deputy chief of staff to the president, chief of staff to the secretary of the Treasury, and special assistant to the director of the National Economic Council.

Sylvia also spent 11 years in leadership positions at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, serving as the chief operating officer and president of the Global Development Program. Her focus was on combating world poverty through agricultural development, providing clean water and sanitation to communities in need, and increasing access to financial services. She later served as president of Walmart Foundation, leading the company’s charitable arm and running their Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative.

I am confident in the American people. Given the tools and information, they make good choices.

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