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10 Things You Didn't Know about Alex Azar

Alex Azar is the current Secretary of Health and Human Services. This means that he is the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the current COVID-19 crisis, with the result that he has been brought into the spotlight in recent times. It is interesting to note that this isn't the first time that Azar has been in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, seeing as how he had risen to the position of the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services until he resigned in January of 2007.

1. Born in Johnstown, PA

Azar was born in a place called Johnstown that can be found in the state of Pennsylvania. It is interesting to note that said city has struggled to bring in new residents and new businesses, which some people have blamed on not one, not two, but three serious cases of flooding over the course of its existence. The last one in 1977 is thought to have been particularly devastating because it happened to what was supposed to be a "flood-free" city by that point in time. Having said that, it would be exaggerating to say that Johnstown has had no success in attracting new residents and new businesses whatsoever, seeing as how it has managed to undergo something of a minor resurgence in recent decades.

2. Has Some Maronite Heritage

On Azar's paternal side, he has some Maronite heritage. For those who are unfamiliar, Maronite refers to members of the Syriac Maronite Church, most of whom can be found in the Maronite diaspora rather than their historic homeland in Lebanon plus some of the neighboring countries. The Syriac Maronite Church is considered to be one of the Eastern Catholic Churches, which are in full communion with the Pope but nonetheless possess a huge measure of independence.

3. Has Some Jewish Heritage

On Azar's maternal side, he has some Jewish heritage. To be exact, his maternal grandfather was a Jewish immigrant from what was still the Russian Empire in those times. Suffice to say that this isn't a particularly uncommon story. To some extent, this is because the Russian Empire was once the place that hosted the most Jews in the entire world. However, said population was also subjected to considerable discrimination, with the result that more than two million Jews fled from Russia between 1880 and 1920. Some of those immigrants winded up in what is now Israel, but a huge number winded up in the United States as well because of positive feedback from those who had headed there before them.

4. Is Eastern Orthodox

Religion-wise, Azar is Eastern Orthodox. This means that he is a member of the second biggest Christian church that can be found on the planet. However, it is interesting to note that the Eastern Orthodox Church lacks the Catholic Church's centralized leadership. Instead, the closest equivalent would be the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who serves as a primus inter pares. For those who are unfamiliar with that term, it is Latin for "first among equals," meaning that said figure's power is far from that of the Pope.

5. Studied Government and Economics

Education-wise, Azar went to Dartmouth College where he studied both government and economics. These subjects have a very close relationship with one another. After all, most people would agree that overseeing the economy is one of the most important responsibilities of governments, meaning that the latter cannot function without at least some understanding of the so-called dismal science. Meanwhile, government is always relevant in economics, not least because it sets the regulatory environment. Later, Azar went to Yale University for a degree in law.

6. Served in the Department of Health and Human Services Under George W. Bush

In August of 2001, Azar was confirmed as the General Counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services, meaning that his first stint started under President George W. Bush's administration. Supposedly, he played an important role in handling the anthrax attacks as well as other relevant concerns in that period, which presumably contributed to his eventual confirmation as the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services.

7. Became a Lobbyist

Upon leaving his position in the Department of Health and Human Services, Azar became a lobbyist for Eli Lilly. In fact, he was the pharmaceutical company's top lobbyist, though that came to a conclusion when Barack Obama won the the 2008 U.S. presidential election because Eli Lilly leadership wanted a Democrat in the position. However, that wasn't the end of Azar's time with Eli Lilly, as shown by how he went on to become the President of Lilly USA.

8. His Leadership Is Not Well-Regarded

As the President of Lilly USA, Azar was the man in charge of Eli Lilly's operations throughout the United States. However, his leadership is not well-regarded by a lot of people out there. Primarily, this is because the prices for Eli Lilly's drugs rose by a considerable margin under Azar's leadership. In particular, the pharmaceutical company's top-selling insulin drug saw a tripling in price, which resulted in a class action lawsuit againt it as well as two other companies. On top of that, Eli Lilly was actually fined in Mexico for collusion on the matter.

9. Claimed That Pandemics Were a Very Serious Concern For Him

In April of 2019, Azar claimed that a pandemic flu was one of the things that concerned him a great deal at a summit on biodefense. This has come up in recent times because of President Donald Trump's claim that no one foresaw the potential of a pandemic flu as a way of excusing his presidential administration's failures at bringing COVID-19 under control.

10. Serious Mistakes Have Happened Under His Leadership

Regardless, serious mistakes in the fight to bring COVID-19 under control have happened under Azar's leadership. For example, the United States refused to use tests sent out by the World Health Organization, thus hindering detection efforts during the earlier phases of the spread of the novel coronavirus. Likewise, cruise ship passengers were quarantined on the ships rather than disembarked before being quarantined on land, which was problematic because the cramped conditions of the ships made it that much easier for the novel coronavirus to spread from person to person.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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