Friday, September 02, 2011

Michelle Obama Chooses Pediatrician As Executive Director For Let's Move!

Dr. Judith S. Palfrey takes charge of childhood obesity initiative; the team adds a new Policy Advisor, too...
UPDATE, February 7, 2012:  Palfrey has now stepped down from her post
The Let's Move! campaign is getting a strong dose of medical science: Today the East Wing announced that after a months-long search, First Lady Michelle Obama has named Dr. Judith S. Palfrey as the new Executive Director for the Let's Move! campaign. A respected pediatrician, researcher, and author, Dr. Palfrey, 68, is the T. Berry Brazelton Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She is a longtime health care activist and child advocate, and will take leave as Director of the Children's International Pediatric Center at Children's Hospital in Boston and as master of Adams House at Harvard College to lead Let's Move!. (Above: Mrs. Obama listens to Palfrey speak at a pre-Let's Move! event in January of 2010)

In a statement, Mrs. Obama praised Dr. Palfrey, calling her a "strong leader," and said she is "eager to welcome" the doctor to the White House so she can "make a real difference in the lives of our nation’s children.”

Dr. Palfrey has been involved with Mrs. Obama's anti-obesity crusade from the beginning, and spoke at the White House launch of the campaign in February of 2010, when she was President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She assisted Mrs. Obama's team in developing Let's Move in the Clinic, a campaign component that asks doctors to make a clinical commitment to battling childhood obesity, which includes regularly monitoring BMI and writing prescriptions for exercise and healthy foods.

“It was my children’s pediatrician who first told me that I needed to pay closer attention to my children’s health so I understand the significance doctors play in family health," Mrs. Obama said. "That’s why we are eager to welcome Judy Palfrey to the White House where I know that she will take the Let’s Move! program to new heights."

When she takes up her post on Tuesday, Sept. 6th, Dr. Palfrey will be working closely with Mrs. Obama and Sam Kass, Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives. Dr. Palfrey's selection is a marked departure from the first Executive Director of Let's Move!, Robin Schepper, who stepped down from her post last May. Schepper, 48, was a strategic communications specialist with a long history of developing campaigns for the Democratic party and the non-profit sector. She had no medical background, and led the Let's Move! team for just nine months, which included extensive travel around the US as various campaign components were launched.

"Judy has worked with families one-on-one and partnered with communities on health promotion initiatives. She is a leading researcher and respected voice in the field," Mrs. Obama said of Dr. Palfrey. "Her tremendous experience and insight in pediatrics and community health will make her a strong leader for Let’s Move! and make a real difference in the lives of our nation’s children."

“As a doctor, I know how important fighting the epidemic of childhood obesity is, and I’ve seen firsthand the struggles families can face in keeping their kids healthy," Dr. Palfrey said in a statement issued by the East Wing. "That’s why I’m so eager to work with the First Lady to build on the successes of Let’s Move! and continue to empower parents to make the healthier choices. I look forward to working with communities all over America as they support families and children.”

The East Wing has declined comment on how the position of Executive Director for the Let's Move! campaign is funded. Schepper's position and salary were not listed among those included in the 2011 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff, which details the titles and salaries of 454 White House Office employees. Senior Policy Advisor Kass was also not included in this report.

Another addition to the Let's Move! team...
The First Lady also has another new addition to her Let's Move! team: In August, Norah Deluhery joined the East Wing as a Policy Advisor. Deluhery was previously a special assistant to USDA's Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. She took up her post at USDA in 2009 after working for the Obama election campaign as a field organizer in rural north central Iowa. Raised in Davenport, Iowa, Deluhery graduated from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She worked in New York City at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business before joining Mr. Obama's election effort.

The East Wing also released a statement from Dr. O. Marion Burton, current president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who called Dr. Palfrey "the ideal candidate for the job."

“Over the past 20 years, our nation has seen an alarming rise in the number of our children who are overweight and obese. It will take a continued concerted effort and thoughtful collaboration to create healthier communities for children,” Burton said. “Dr. Palfrey has spent her career advocating for the health and well-being of children. She brings a wealth of clinical, research and practice expertise, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of preventive health and promotion."

Palfrey graduated from Radcliffe College in 1967 before attending medical school at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is the author of five books, including Community Child Health: An Action Plan for Today (1995); Child Health In America: Making A Difference Through Advocacy (2006), and she is co-author of the Disney Encyclopedia of Baby and Childcare (1999). She is married to Dr. Sean Palfrey, a pediatrician in Boston, and they are parents to three adult children.

Palfrey's bio, from the White House:

Dr. Palfrey has been a pediatric clinician and teacher for over 30 years, and her clinical work and teaching has included primary care, developmental pediatrics, inpatient pediatrics and community health. At Harvard Medical School, Dr. Palfrey was appointed as the first incumbent of T. Berry Brazelton Professorship of Pediatrics. Most recently, she directed the global health efforts of the Department of Medicine at the Children’s Hospital in Boston.

She has served this past year as immediate past president of AAP – the nation’s largest pediatric organization with a membership of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists. From 1986 to 2007, Dr. Palfrey was chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital, Boston. Dr. Palfrey has served as chair of the AAP Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, president of the Academic Pediatric Association, director of Building Bright Futures, and national program director of the Dyson Community Pediatrics Initiative. In each of these programs, she has placed a major emphasis on prevention and health promotion.

Dr. Palfrey is a recipient of the Milton J.E. Senn Award from AAP, the Millie and Richard Brock Award of the New York Academy of Medicine and the Marie Felton Award of the Boston Center for Independent Living. Originally from El Paso, Texas, Dr. Palfrey holds an A.B. from Harvard and an M.D. from Columbia University. She is married with three children.

*Photo at top taken at the Alexandria, Virginia, YMCA,on Jan. 28, 2010. Palfrey photo from AAP.