Molly Magarik will be Delaware's next secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services.
Magarik, who served as deputy director of the state's largest agency, will replace outgoing Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker. Odom Walker, who's led the agency since 2017. Magarik was Dr. Odom Walker's recommendation for the position.
"Expertise is really important, but trust is even more important, an d Molly is somebody that I trust implicitly. I know her heart; I know her mind, I know her in a deep kind of way as a professional and as a person, and I just think she's uniquely suited for this very difficult job," said Governor John Carney at his weekly coronavirus news conference.
While she's not a doctor, Carney pointed out that Magarik is about to get a Master's degree in health care from Dartmouth College.
"I think Molly will do a great job," he said. "She's got great physician support that is absolutely critically important in that...department. It's a much bigger department than just the public health side, with expertise that I know she will utilize and provide the leadership that we need that's based in the values that are important to me," Carney said.
He also noted he served as finance secretary for the state, under then-Governor Tom Carper, without an economic degree.
"A lot of people questioned whether I had the ability...when I found who else was being considered, I said I could do as good a job or better...I just know the kind of worker that she is, what she brings to the table, and I have every confidence, in that part, obviously she's not an MD, there are plenty of MDs there that can help her with that part of it."
The governor's office announced last week that Odom Walker would be departing to work on health care policy on the national level, serving as senior vice president and chief population officer for Nemours in Washington, D.C.
"She's been great. She's just was a godsend from the beginning in terms of her leadership, her expertise as a...family physician, doing work in population health, all her focus on health care costs really helped us kind of move our engagement on health care issues forward from a family physician's point of view," said Carney.
Carney called Odom Walker's opportunity "incredible," but admits, he tried to talk her into staying indefinitely.
"It was a very difficult decision for her...we wanted her to lead us through, I guess, the really hard part, although it all seems hard to me...she's just been a godsend to us, and we're going to miss her," he said. "But it was a set of personal circumstances and a professional opportunity that she really couldn't turn down."
During her Senate Executive Committee confirmation hearing, Magarik was asked about a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall and how she would handle it as someone without medical experience.
"The approach to a second wave is to be much more targeted, and to leverage our new resources around testing and contract tracing to be more surgical in the strike going into particular communities or identifying clusters, as opposed to take a broad-brush stroke that we know has dramatic impacts on the economy," she said.
She said DHSS will apply lessons learned from what's happened since the pandemic began.
"What we could have done better? And what we did well, and then take that into account as we go forward."
Magarik also spoke highly about the quality of Delaware's health care system, on a personal level, referencing her own high-risk pregnancy. She gave birth to twins five years ago.
"It drives home the importance of the work that we do in the department. Thankfully, and not surprisingly, my daughters received exceptional care at one of our Delaware hospitals, and they're actually starting kindergarten this fall."
Magarik's vote Tuesday, June 23, 2020, was unanimous among the state Senate. She formerly served as Governor John Carney's state director, while he was a U.S. Congressman.