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Md. health secretary to join Johns Hopkins

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Local,Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's health secretary, who has been working to repair the state's badly flawed health exchange website this year, will be joining the full-time faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, effective Jan. 1, the school announced Wednesday.

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who will depart Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration as the governor's second term ends in January, will be the new associate dean for public health practice and training. He also will hold a faculty appointment in the Department of Health and Policy Management.

"I look forward to joining a team of scholars that is making the world healthier, safer, and more sustainable," Sharfstein said in a statement released by Johns Hopkins. "I will stay involved in my city of Baltimore and my state of Maryland, as I engage with national and global health policy challenges and help train future public health leaders."

Much of the past year of Sharfstein's tenure has been marked by the state's rocky rollout of its health care exchange website.

The website crashed shortly after it opened on Oct. 1, and the state is working to revamp it with technology from Connecticut in time for the next enrollment period in November at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. Nevertheless, Sharfstein and O'Malley have pointed to 375,000 new enrollees under health care reform through Medicaid signups and private insurance plans.

Sharfstein referred to the exchange's issues in an email to his staff on Wednesday. He wrote, "The IT problems of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange last year are certainly not going to make my highlight reel."

Sharfstein also played a leading role in modernizing Maryland's unique rate-setting system for hospital services. Changes to the system are designed to move Maryland away from reimbursing hospitals on a fee-for-service basis to an emphasis on prevention and quality of care.

"As the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, he's led the way as we have invested in public health and prevention, aligned the health care system to the vision of better health at lower cost, and expanded health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Marylanders," O'Malley said in a statement. "As a Marylander, I'm thrilled that he's going to Johns Hopkins."

Sharfstein was the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's principal deputy commissioner before returning to be Maryland's top health official in 2011 as a member of O'Malley's cabinet. He served as Baltimore's health commissioner from December 2005 through March of 2009 before moving to the FDA.

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