As First Lady Michelle Obama prepares to mark the second anniversary of the Let's Move! campaign this week with a huge blitz that includes a multi-state tour, her national initiative is without an Executive Director. Dr. Judy Palfrey (l), a pediatrician who was named to the post by Mrs. Obama in September of 2011, has quietly stepped down after serving for about two months. Palfrey was the second Executive Director for the campaign, replacing Robin Schepper, who served for ten months.
Palfrey's departure was not announced by the East Wing; she departed the White House in December, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Palfrey left her position as the T. Berry Brazelton Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School to join Mrs. Obama's team, and has returned to Boston to be closer to her family, according to the First Lady's Director of Communications, Kristina Schake.
Following her departure from Mrs. Obama's team, Palfrey was given a fellowship at the Partnership for a Healthier America, the non-profit foundation created to support Let's Move!; Mrs. Obama is honorary chair. The fellowship has not yet been announced. Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass, Mrs. Obama's top domestic policy advisor, Jocelyn Frye, and Julie Moreno, a Public Health Advisor for Childhood Obesity, assigned to the Domestic Policy Council from the Surgeon General's Office, have been filling in the void left by Palfrey's exit.
Palfrey "is spearheading an important new initiative to mobilize health professionals and engage the research community in support of Let's Move! through a fellowship with the Partnership for a Healthier America," Schake said.
"Although she is no longer working out of our office, from her new position she is helping to expand efforts to eliminate childhood obesity in communities across the country."
UPDATE, March 7: PHA announces Palfrey's fellowship. The news release:
Dr. Judith Palfrey Receives PHA fellowship
Former Let’s Move! executive director will work with health professionals to address the issue of childhood obesity
WASHINGTON – The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which works with the private sector and its honorary chairwoman First Lady Michelle Obama to solve the nation’s childhood obesity crisis, today announced that Judith Palfrey, M.D., has been named as a part-time fellow to engage the health community, specifically medical professionals, in developing strategies to end the childhood obesity crisis within a generation.
Dr. Palfrey will also continue her work as the T. Berry Brazelton Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Senior Associate in Medicine at Children’s Hospital, Boston. She is the former Executive Director of Let’s Move! and also served as the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics from 2009-2010. Prior to that, Dr. Palfrey was the chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital in Boston.
“Dr. Palfrey’s experience will be a valuable asset in PHA’s efforts to work with doctors, nurses and other health professionals who serve on the front lines of this epidemic,” said PHA CEO Lawrence A. Soler. “She understands the difficulties the health community faces when dealing with this issue and will draw on that knowledge to develop strategies with other health professionals to overcome those hurdles. PHA is looking forward to having her work with us to solve the childhood obesity epidemic.”
The six-month fellowship is funded through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation founded PHA in 2010, along with The California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, Nemours, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
For the anniversary tour, Mrs. Obama will have eight events in Iowa, Arkansas, Texas and Florida beginning on Thursday, Feb. 9 to celebrate her campaign. Palfrey was 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.
Schepper, the mother of two boys, also cited family issues when she left the position of Executive Director. She joined the East Wing team in August of 2010, and departed in June of 2011.