Dr. Deidre Gifford, State of Connecticut Commissioner of Department of Social Services and Senior Advisor to the Governor for Health and Human Services, will be the commencement speaker for the UConn School of Pharmacy’s Pharm.D. class of 2022. She will speak on Sunday, May 8 at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts where the ceremony will take place.
Gifford was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont to lead the Department of Social Services in June 2019, after executive service with the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and experience in medical practice, the nonprofit sector and government service in Rhode Island.
In May 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, Governor Lamont appointed Gifford to also head the Department of Public Health, as Acting Commissioner. She has served as a leading member of the Governor’s team in planning and implementing the state’s comprehensive response to the public health emergency until September of 2021.
“Commissioner Gifford’s leadership is the reason that our School of Pharmacy got closely involved with the State of Connecticut’s effort to vaccinate its citizens. Both students and faculty got involved in contact tracing in 2020 and then in 2021 assisted with vaccinating and training and certification of health care workers like EMT’s and dentists, that don’t usually vaccinate. She also called on one of our faculty, Dr. Jennifer Girotto, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, to join the Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group” says Philip Hritcko, Pharm.D., Dean. “We are grateful to have been able to help and grateful that Dr. Gifford recognized that we could.”
In July 2021, Governor Lamont appointed Gifford to the additional duty of serving as Senior Advisor to the Governor for Health and Human Services. In this role, she is tasked with coordinating a multi-agency approach among the state’s nine health and human services agencies to improve health and healthcare in Connecticut. The Senior Advisor is responsible for convening and leading coordination efforts between these agencies, working closely with the Office of Policy and Management, as well as providing the Governor with policy input and recommendations that address issues of health, healthcare costs, quality, and disparities.
Prior to beginning service in Connecticut, Gifford was Deputy Director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2016 to 2019. Before joining CMS, she served as the Director of State Policy and Programs at the National Association of Medicaid Directors, where she led that organization’s efforts with states to support and advance value-based purchasing in Medicaid.
From 2012 to 2015, Gifford served as Medicaid Director in the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services, having previously served as the agency’s medical director. During her tenure, she advanced changes in the payment and delivery system to improve the quality of care and enhance the value of Medicaid services, including the development of numerous initiatives in care coordination, information technology, and provider payment innovations.
A graduate in Public Health of the University of California at Los Angeles, Gifford received her medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in New York. She specialized in obstetrics and gynecology and went on to receive a master of public health degree in epidemiology from UCLA.