Miller Center

Sylvia Mathews Burwell (2014-2017) - Secretary of Health and Human Services

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Sylvia Mathews Burwell was born in 1965 in Hinton, West Virginia. She graduated with a degree in government from Harvard University in 1987 and went on to become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, graduating with a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics. 

Before joining the Department of Health & Human Services, Burwell had a wealth of public and private sector experience. She began her career as an associate at McKinsey and Company, a business management consultant firm. She worked on the campaign of Bill Clinton and joined the Clinton administration in 1993. She served as staff director of the National Economic Council from 1993 to 1995, chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin from 1995 to 1997, and deputy chief of staff to President Clinton from 1997 to 1998. In 1998, Burwell joined the Office of Management and Budget to serve as deputy director until 2001.

Burwell then spent 10 years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, serving as the president of the Global Development Program and as the Foundation’s first Chief Operating Officer. In 2011 Burwell became president of the Walmart Foundation. During her tenure, the Foundation surpassed $1 billion in total giving.

Burwell first served the Obama Administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget before being sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Health and Human Services on June 9, 2014.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Michael Nelson

Professor Nelson is the Fulmer Professor Political Science at Rhodes College, a senior fellow of the Miller Center, and the senior contributing editor and book editor of the Cook Political Report. He is the author of multiple books on American politics and government, including:

Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government (University Press of Kansas), which won the American Political Science Association’s Richard E. Neustadt Award for Best Book on the Presidency published in 2014

How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (LSU Press), which won the Southern Political Science Association’s V.O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics published in 2006