Chief scientist to leave ONC

His departure comes on the heels of other high-profile resignations
By Tom Sullivan
11:01 AM
Doug Fridsma, MD

The exodus from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT continued on Monday when it announced that Doug Fridsma, MD, is stepping down from his post as chief scientist.

Fridsma’s departure comes on the heels of other high-profile resignations, notably the so-called consumerista Lygeia Ricciardi and chief privacy officer Joy Pritts. As is often the case with employees leaving ONC — think former national coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD, and director of ONC’s Office of Provider Adoption Support Mat Kendal before them — Ricciardi and Pitts did not immediately reveal their next steps.

On the other hand, ONC said on Monday that Fridsma would be joining the American Medical Informatics Association as CEO.

"Dr. Fridsma has rich experiences in both academic and government settings where he has focused his energy toward advancing state-of-the-art health informatics technologies,” Blackford Middleton, MD, chair of AMIA’s board of directors said in a prepared statement. “As a longtime AMIA member and national leader, he has a keen understanding of the science of informatics as well as the application of informatics to transform care. He brings a well-informed perspective from the practitioner, policymaker, and investigator points-of-view to help define not only what informaticians know, but also what informaticians do to transform care."




As chief scientist at ONC, Fridsma was “responsible for all programs that are focused on providing a foundation for interoperable health information exchange,” according to his bio on, including the standards and interoperability framework. 

"Doug's signature accomplishment, undoubtedly, is the creation of the Standards & Interoperability Framework," national coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD wrote in an email to ONC staffers. "Through that program, ONC has engaged the health IT community in an open and transparent process, solving critical challenges that help improve the sharing and use of electronic health information across the health care system."

Fridsma's departure comes as ONC is working to lay down a roadmap to widespread interoperability and facing increasing pressure about how long it will take, from Congressmen proposing legislation last week that would ease meaningful use reporting requirements to other government-driven initiatives such as the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, or PCAST and JASON reports essentially highlighting ways ONC could more effectively fuel interoperability. 

In addition to its 10-year plan for interoperability, ONC is also working on its next Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, of which national coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, said during the September HIT Policy Committee meeting “interoperability is one of those key strategic areas,” adding that ONC is prioritizing the weighty matter because America is “waiting for us to get interoperability right.”

Fridsma will stay with ONC until November.