The American Red Cross, for the first time in its 118-year history, has named a physician, Bernadine Healy, M.D., as its president and chief executive officer.
Healy, 54, will succeed Elizabeth Dole, who left the helm of the leading hospital blood supplier in January to pursue the Republican nomination for president.
"I am honored," Healy said of her appointment, which was announced last week in Washington. "I intend to do everything within my power to help the Red Cross grow and continue to serve as the world's premier humanitarian organization."
While Healy will officially start in September, she intends to begin many of her duties immediately, the Red Cross said.
"This is only good news for those of us providing healthcare," said David Shulkin, M.D., chief medical officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, a major Red Cross customer. "It's terrific to have somebody of her stature leading the Red Cross."
Healy's appointment drew praise, even from a traditional Red Cross rival. "We are pleased," said Jim MacPherson, executive director of America's Blood Centers, Washington. "We hope she will firmly embrace the blood centers' humanitarian mission to provide blood and blood services for the patients, physicians and hospitals we serve and work closely with (us) to assure that all patients have equal access to a safe, adequate blood supply."
Healy, like her predecessor Dole, has made a career of trailblazing.
A native of New York, Healy has been dean of the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health since 1995.
No stranger to politics, Healy, like Dole, is a Republican. She ran unsuccessfully for the party's Senate nomination in Ohio in 1994.
Healy was director of the National Institutes of Health from 1991 to 1993. She was the first woman in the top NIH job and held one of only two senior political appointments made by President Bush and retained by President Clinton.
Before her appointment at NIH, Healy was chairwoman of the research institute of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where she directed research programs in areas ranging from cardiovascular disease to molecular biology.