Mona Siddiqui — the Department of Health and Human Services chief data officer who wasn’t — is leaving her position within the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, she announced Thursday.
Siddiqui has held the title of CDO within OCTO since 2017. But the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, which took effect in 2019, requires all CFO Act agencies to appoint a nonpolitical CDO. Department leadership determined that position was different from Siddiqui’s, with Chief Information Officer Jose Arrieta stepping into the new CDO role in an acting capacity until one is hired.
“Serving at HHS during the last three years has been an enormous privilege,” Siddiqui wrote in her farewell. “Working with a committed team that has felt a tremendous sense of purpose and mission has made this journey transformational not just for HHS but for each one of us engaged in driving this work forward.”
HHS did not respond to a request for comment on if Siddiqui’s departure will speed up the search for a department CDO and where that position will sit within the organization. The Evidence Act doesn’t lay out specific requirements for where a CDO should reside within an agency, creating ambiguous scenarios like the one at HHS.
Also unclear is when Siddiqui’s last day is and if the OCTO CDO position will be filled or eliminated. She declined to comment.
Some departments like Commerce opted to elevate a CDO already within their ranks — in that case, then National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration CDO Ed Kearns.
In her farewell, Siddiqui also touted her Data Team’s work developing a technology stack enabling enterprise data sharing; implementing data governance; establishing a data science and artificial intelligence training program; and strategizing with stakeholders around opioids, data privacy, collaboration with states, and social determinants of health.
HHS Chief Technology Officer Ed Simcox sang Siddiqui’s praises in a tweet, as did Innovator in Residence Kristen Honey.
It is bittersweet to announce that Mona Siddiqui is leaving HHS. While we will miss her greatly, she will continue to champion open data. Working with Mona has been a privilege. She leaves our data portfolio in a good place. https://t.co/KXmkimwBGg
— Ed Simcox (@HHSCTO) January 16, 2020
Best Chief Data Officer any agency could ever ask for! #CDO 🙌https://t.co/UFLDbA90fj & all things data, data science, data analytics & AI are where they are today at HHS bc of
Dr. Mona Siddiqui #RockStar https://t.co/zaWu2vPs4J
— Kristen Honey (@khoney) January 17, 2020