The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) recently named Elizabeth Coté, MD, MPA as chief health officer. Coté, as a physician, has dedicated her career to serving under-resourced communities. She comes to NICHQ from the Indian Health Services (IHS), where she worked as the clinical director for the Micmac Service Unit which brings quality health services to the Northern Maine Native American community. This unit, under her direction, reduced its prescribing of opioids by 70 percent and tripled the amount of patients it treated for substance abuse. This, along with the fact that the unit also reached record numbers in quality of care targets while the Micmac community’s life expectancy rose significantly earned her national recognition from IHS. Her career has been filled with similar success stories in communities across the globe. While working for the Boston-based consumer group Health Care for All, Coté spearheaded the initiative to increase enrollment of school-aged children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program through the free and reduced meals program. This reform was directly recognized by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as a best practice. Coté also led health initiatives in marginalized communities in France, Haiti, Iraq and India, often deploying to areas struck by natural disasters. In India, she founded a program which trained orphanage caregivers in the prevention and detection of diseases in newborns; while in Iraq she helped in the rebuilding of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure, earning her the Joint Civilian Service Achievement from the U.S. Department of Defense.
In 2011, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as a White House Fellow and served the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, as part of the team working on the policy changes and payment reforms of Affordable Care Act. Before this extensive and selfless career, Coté attended Wellesley College for her undergraduate work and was accepted into Harvard Medical School to earn her medical degree. She then enrolled in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government to also earn her master’s. Ever since, she has dedicated her practice to the underserved. “From the front lines of the most overstretched health systems both in the U.S. and abroad, I’ve seen dramatic health improvement happen,” said Coté in a press release. “I’m thrilled to join the passionate professionals at NICHQ, who work with stakeholders and families to develop new strategies, push boundaries, remove barriers and drive improvements that will ultimately create optimal health for children.” Elizabeth Coté, MD, MPA began work as chief health officer of NICHQ on May 31, 2018.