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May 8, 2024

Jeanne Lambrew to leave top job at Maine DHHS for roles with think tank, Harvard

Jeanne Lambrew at podium File Photo / Renee Cordes Jeanne Lambrew, seen here in 2022, will step down as commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services on May 31 to rejoin the Century Foundation and to teach at Harvard University.

Jeanne Lambrew, who helped lead Maine through the pandemic as commissioner of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, will step down on May 31 in order to accept a think-tank position and to teach at Harvard University.

Lambrew — the first member of Gov. Janet Mills’ Cabinet to be named following her election in 2018 — led the largest department in Maine state government.

“She expanded health care to more than 100,000 people, lowered our uninsured rate, guided our best-in-the-nation pandemic response, implemented historic investments in behavioral health and other vital services, and rebuilt the department to restore faith in its core mission," said Mills. 

Lambrew came to the position from a long career in health care policy, notably as the deputy assistant to President Barack Obama for health policy from 2013 to 2017. During that time, her duties included helping to draft, implement and defend the Affordable Care Act.

Mills will name an acting commissioner for the department before Lambrew's departure if a permanent commissioner has not yet been nominated. Any candidate for commissioner will be subject to a hearing before the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee and confirmation by the Maine State Senate.

Distinguished work

Starting on June 10, Lambrew will become the director of health care reform for the Century Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that conducts research and develops national policy recommendations. Additionally, Lambrew will join the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as an adjunct professor of health policy.

Lambrew has a history with the foundation, where she worked from 2017-18 following her eight years in the Obama administration.

“There are few, if any, people who have had more of a positive impact on health care in recent decades than Jeanne Lambrew,” said Mark Zuckerman, the foundation’s president and former deputy director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council. 

At the foundation, Lambrew will lead efforts to help plan future health care reform focused on ensuring high-quality, affordable and universal access to care.

She has been an associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, Texas, and at the George Washington University School of Public Health. She served as senior fellow for health policy at the Center for American Progress and as a research faculty member at Georgetown University. 

Reaction from health care leaders

“The last five and a half years have been extraordinarily challenging and rewarding, with the department staff, cabinet, partners and people of Maine responding to a global pandemic, catastrophic storms and human tragedies with skill, compassion and results,” said Lambrew. “More work remains to be done, but the department is well-positioned to continue its vital work.”

Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association, credited Lambrew’s “commitment to getting hospitals the critical support they needed to meet the challenge of caring for our communities, whether it be additional workers, testing supplies, PPE or vaccines.”

Beyond the pandemic, he said, “she has led crucial work to expand access to health coverage, invest in Maine's health care workforce, and strengthen Maine's health care system overall.”

Ann Woloson, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, said that policy initiatives led by Lambrew have resulted in tens of thousands of Mainers having health coverage and health care.

The president of the Maine Medical Association, Dr. Paul Cain, said, “She was a strong partner with Maine physicians in managing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing access to health care in our state.”

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