After 43 years at HHS, half spent at NIH and half spent at the Department, our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Bill Hall, is retiring.
As I always say, Bill isn’t an Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs staffer, he is an HHS institution. He has left quite a legacy at HHS – shaping the way the Department communicates while serving under the leadership of 13 secretaries and 8 administrations.
He’s a well-known name to many in the public health field, here in D.C. and across the world where he has helped us establish international ties that have been instrumental in our response to global health issues ranging from Zika, Ebola, H1N1, West Nile Virus, and SARS to COVID-19 these past few years.
A top communicator, he’s honed the skill of distilling complex scientific concepts into more digestible messages for the public and the media. But he doesn’t just distill complex scientific concepts, he understands them and can – and often has – served as an advisor to HHS secretaries and other high-level leaders across the Department.
Bill started his career as a part-time student employee at NIH and stayed there for 18 years, moving up the ranks. He had started out in school studying to be a doctor but fell in love with communications working at his school’s radio station. At HHS, he was able to combine his love of science and biology with his passion for communicating.
He has spent the rest of his time at HHS on our Public Affairs team in the Office of the Secretary, where he’s been able to advise secretaries on emergency response and crisis communications to keep people safe.
Bill was sent to New York after September 11, where he served as the HHS spokesperson as teams were deployed to offer mental health, family unification and other supports and services. There was even a team of veterinarians that was dispatched to help in the search and rescue of countless pets.
From there, Bill continued to lead the way on emergency response and crisis communications, advocating for just how important communications is in health emergencies, often serving as our first line of defense alongside treatments and vaccines, we have the responsibility to inform people how to keep themselves and others safe. Bill’s career has been a testament to how public health communications can save lives.
When the Global Health Security Initiative was established, Bill reached out to friend in the Canadian Health Ministry to put together a communications workgroup of health ministries throughout the G7, EU, and the World Health Organization. This group became a core pillar of the initiative, and Bill went on to lead tabletop exercises for health ministers from around the world when they would gather for these meetings.
Bill perfectly encapsulates the meaningful work we do every day here at HHS, and why we do it. When asked why he has enjoyed the work at Health and Human Services for so long, he likes to say “because ‘human’ is in the name.”
That’s why I wanted to take a moment and write a little about Bill and the legacy he’s leaving – it’s a part of history. Stories like his humanize the work we do and show what it looks like when we have professionals that take a people-first approach to their work.
Bill, thank you for tireless work on behalf of the American people and congratulations on leaving your mark at HHS.
We wish you a very happy retirement.