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The Wait Is Over: HHS’s Choice to Run OCR Has Breach, Federal Leadership Experience

For the past year, Lisa J. Pino, President Biden’s new choice to lead the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), was the number two health official in the New York State Department of Health.[1] Pino’s career also includes helping to manage the aftermath of the 2015 breach of millions of records maintained by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

In announcing the selection of Pino, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra referred to her as “an exceptional public servant.” Pino’s appointment also marks the third time a woman has been OCR director. In September 2009, President Obama appointed Georgina Verdugo, who served two and a half years. The second was Jocelyn Samuels, who was director from 2014 until the start of the Trump administration.

As other OCR directors before her, Pino hails from a civil rights background, but the OPM breach also added to her cybersecurity expertise. And she wasted little time getting started on the job: On Sept. 30, three days after her appointment, OCR issued guidance for the medical providers and the public on vaccine mandates and HIPAA[2] —a source of confusion that even made it into the new season of Saturday Night Live during its first sketch on Oct. 2.

In dealing with the OPM breach, which the HHS announcement said affected 4 million workers and “22 million surrogate profiles,” Pino was involved in “renegotiating 700 vendor procurements and establishing new cybersecurity regulatory protections,” the agency said.

Pino also was the assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In this position, Pino “drafted and championed USDA's first gender identity anti-discrimination program regulation and its first USDA limited English proficiency guidance,” HHS said. Pino also was USDA’s deputy administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

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