Jocelyn Samuels Named New OCR DirectorReplaces Leon Rodriguez, Now Headed to DHS
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has named Jocelyn Samuels the next director of the Office for Civil Rights, the HHS unit that enforces HIPAA compliance.
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Samuels, who currently serves as the acting assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, will replace former HHS OCR director Leon Rodriguez, whose nomination by President Obama as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, was confirmed by Senate vote on June 24.
"Leon is in the process of planning his departure, and we look forward to Jocelyn joining us here at OCR in the near future," an OCR spokeswoman tells Information Security Media Group. Dates for Rodriguez to leave OCR and for Samuels to join the agency were not disclosed.
In an email to HHS staff obtained by ISMG, secretary Burwell writes, "Jocelyn's wealth of experience and commitment to the mission of OCR will be great assets to her as she takes on this new role. I am looking forward to Jocelyn joining the team here at HHS in the near future."
Meanwhile, DHS secretary Jeh Johnson states, "I am very pleased that the Senate has confirmed Leon Rodriguez to be our next Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Including my own, this marks the eighth Senate-confirmed appointment to senior level positions within DHS since December. We are filling the vacancies in senior-level positions in this Department and injecting a new energy within its leadership. I thank the Senate for acting on this nomination."
Prior to her tenure at the DOJ, Samuels was the vice president for Education and Employment at the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C., where she was engaged in legislative and policy advocacy to promote enforcement of Title VII and Title IX, according to her biography posted on the DOJ website.
She also previously served as labor counsel to the late U.S. senator Edward Kennedy, and as a senior policy attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Samuels has additional experience in the private sector and as a law clerk to a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Changing of the Guard
The departure of Rodriguez comes on the heels of other longtime senior leadership leaving OCR. Susan McAndrew, OCR deputy director for health information privacy, whom some called "the mother of HIPAA," retired from federal service on May 2.
In addition to enforcing HIPAA compliance through activities that include breach investigations and random audits, OCR also enforces protection of unfair healthcare treatment or discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, age, gender or religion (see HIPAA Enforcement: A Reality Check).