American University of Beirut

AUB alumnus Dr. Bechara Choucair’s journey to one of Washington’s toughest jobs

Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications,​​

Bechara Choucair, MD, is a 47-year-old Lebanese American physician and public health advisor who graduated from AUB in 1997. He was recently appointed as the White House Vaccinations Coordinator and is responsible for coordinating the timely, safe, and equitable delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine in the US, coordinating with federal agencies and state and local governments.

Choucair moved to the US in 1997 to train at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas after receiving his Doctor of Medicine degree from AUB's Faculty of Medicine.

“I loved my time at AUB," he commented. “I will be forever grateful for all the people I met there." Choucair remembered his work during his university years with two classmates, Drs. Hanan Khalil and Nabil Jamal, under the supervision of Dr. Ghassan Hamadeh. “Spending a whole month in the Beqaa valley during medical school, and completing a community health needs assessment for the area around the AUB farm, made me realize that health is about a lot more than healthcare. Health is about education, about housing, about having a good job… and that's what sparked my interest in public health."

Fighting the pandemic

In the past year, Choucair has taken a leading role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. In summer 2020, Choucair was co-lead of California's Coronavirus Testing Task Force, the state's private-public partnership that has taken the lead role in expanding both the collection and processing of specimens for COVID-19 testing.

In July 2020, Choucair wrote an op-ed that was published by The Hill, with the title “COVID-19 and inequity — public health needs a third revolution." He wrote, “In a nation with growing economic disparities, scarred by centuries of systemic racism, the third revolution in public health must address the root causes of our remaining pervasive health inequities — poverty, pollution, housing, food security and other basic needs."

During these difficult times, as COVID-19 cases and deaths were setting records in the US, Dr. Bechara Choucair was appointed as White House Vaccinations Coordinator. He joined newly elected President Joe Biden's administration in January 2021, leading the COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the country of 328 million people.

@choucair tweeted on December 30, 2020, “It's an honor to join @JoeBiden administration as White House COVID-19 Vaccinations Coordinator during this pivotal moment in the pandemic.  I'm humbled to be part of the team working to ensure an efficient, equitable, and effective roll out."

President Biden has set an ambitious goal of administering 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office, acknowledging that this will be “one of the hardest and most costly operational challenges in our nation's history."

A career committed to health​

In 2001 Choucair joined the Crusader Clinic where he served as medical director for over four years. In 2005, he took on the role of executive director and medical director at the Heartland Health Centers Chicago for another four years. In 2009, Choucair received his master's degree in healthcare management, healthcare administration from The University of Texas at Dallas.

In December 2009, he was appointed as commissioner at the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). He served in this position for five years, where he had to “reform one of the nation's largest and most complex public health agencies with an annual operating budget of more than $160 million serving more than 2.7 million residents in Chicago," as mentioned on his LinkedIn profile. Some of his achievements in this role were launching Healthy Chicago, “the city's first comprehensive public health agenda that has since reported historic lows in childhood obesity rates and both teen and adult smoking rates, as well as significant increases in overall life expectancy." He also led CDPH to become the first big city public health agency to be awarded national accreditation. Starting in 2011, Choucair worked under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had been a chief of staff to President Barack Obama.​

In 2015, Choucair took on the position of senior vice president – safety net and community health at Trinity Health, one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare delivery systems in the US, serving communities of over 30 million people across 22 states.

Later, Choucair joined Kaiser Permanente, a major system of hospitals, clinics, and health plans in the US, as chief community health officer, serving for over three years, and then as chief health officer where he oversaw the organization's efforts to improve the health of its 12.2 million members and the 68 million people who live in the communities it serves.

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