January 24, 2017 at 9:45 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Former Whitman-Walker official named White House health adviser
Katy French Talento, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Whitman-Walker Clinic associate director Katy French Talento is now a key domestic policy adviser to President Trump.

In a little-noticed development, then President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 5 named former Whitman-Walker Clinic associate director Katy French Talento as his White House health policy adviser.

Talento’s LinkedIn page and other biographical information on her shows that she served from December 1998 to November 2000 as a Whitman-Walker Program Evaluator and later as its Associate Director for Contracts and Grants.

The biographical information shows that Talento began work at Whitman-Walker, which is widely known as an LGBT community healthcare facility, shortly after she received a master’s in science degree in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the Harvard University School of Public Health.

“She was excellent at what she did,” said Patricia Hawkins, a lesbian who served as Whitman-Walker’s Associate Executive Director at the time Talento worked there. “She was very talented.”

In the 17 years since leaving Whitman-Walker Talento has worked in public policy and health-related positions for five U.S. senators as well as two Senate Committees. During her tenure with the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions she advised Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) on public health and HIV/AIDS issues.

In 2010 she left the Senate to enter the realm of politics when she worked as director of speech writing for the Republican National Committee during the 2010 election cycle. She returned to Capitol Hill in 2011 to work as deputy staff director to the Republican office of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Two years later, she became Vice President for Corporate Affairs for Mosquito Zone International, a company that provides protection against malaria for workers of energy companies in Africa and Asia.    

Talento returned once again to the Senate in 2013 to become legislative director for Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) before being named by Trump this month to the White House health policy adviser position, which makes her a member of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

“It’s a very important job,” said Carl Schmid, associate director of the AIDS Institute, a national AIDS advocacy organization. Schmid said Talento also served on Trump’s presidential transition team.

“She has always been a very strong supporter of HIV issues, both globally and domestically,” Schmid said.

Talento is also known as a political and fiscal conservative who is pro-life and who has taken controversial positions on oral contraceptives for women. In a 2015 article in The Federalist blog she cites studies showing that prolonged use of birth control pills among women can lead to infertility and other serious health problems.

But Schmid said Talento appeared to break ranks with some conservative groups by speaking out in favor of needle exchange programs as a means of preventing the spread of HIV among injection drug abusers.

“I don’t think she made a secret of that and she made it well known that she worked at Whitman-Walker and was supportive of those programs,” Schmid said.

Hawkins said Talento worked well with the mostly progressive Democratic leaning staff at Whitman-Walker.

“She was coming from a different place,” said Hawkins. “She was very religious, a devout Christian, and conservative and a Republican. But she was not homophobic at all.”

Talento’s appointment by Trump comes at a time when LGBT rights leaders have expressed alarm that many of his other high-level appointments, including cabinet nominees, have records of strong opposition to LGBT rights and have supported anti-LGBT laws in state legislatures.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Jim Driscoll

    We are indeed fortunate to have in this crucial position someone with a broad understanding of HIV issues, long experience dealing with HIVers and gays, and deep commitment to better healthcare for all. The Trump Administration will strive toward optimal utilization of healthcare resources, minimization of waste, fraud and abuse in all programs including those such as Ryan White, 340B, and HOPWA. Katy French Talento’s long experience as a staffer working with fiscal conservatives such as Sen. Tom Coburn will equip her to sort the wheat from the chaff to redirect resources toward patient benefit. These skills can also apply to FDA and NIH where re-evaluation toward the end of accelerating innovation is much needed and strongly supported by President Trump. Indeed, HIV angel Bill Gates has praised Trump as a potential “innovation President like John Kennedy.” Katy is well prepared to help our new President meet his goals. I worked with her when she was in the Senate, and like everyone else who knew her I was impressed by her intelligence and commitment. Her committment flows from strong character and religious values directed toward helping others.

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