HHS’s first chief AI officer departs after 1 year

Oki Mek, right, and Greg Sisson participate in a panel discussion June 20, 2019, at Cloud Smart Talks presented by Nutanix and produced by FedScoop (FedScoop)


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The Department of Health and Human Services’ first chief artificial intelligence officer departed the agency Saturday.

Oki Mek intends to take two to four weeks off to figure out where he’s headed next, having spent 11-and-a-half years at HHS and one as CIAO.

The departure comes just as Karl Mathias takes over as HHS chief information officer.

Mek oversaw the launch of HHS’s much-anticipated AI website with 2022 priorities of increasing employee skills through its AI Community of Practice (COP) and issuing guidance on ethical algorithms from its AI Council. HHS also released its AI Strategy in January 2021 under Mek.

Mek previously expressed interest in establishing a virtual sandbox, like the one the Department of Defense’s Joint AI Center uses, for small-scale experimentation on use cases that benefit the entire enterprise in 2022. But that would require more funding, a larger team and convening authority, which he’d requested.

Other 2022 HHS priorities that will have to be taken up by Mek’s successor include developing an AI Use Case Inventory, allowing staff to track where and how applications are being deployed, and hosting AI Lunch & Learn Sessions with health sector innovators and data groups.

At the start of the pandemic, Mek was serving as senior advisor to then CIO José Arrieta.

Before HHS, Mek worked at the Department of Energy and served in the Army National Guard.

HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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artificial intelligence (AI), CIO, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Karl Mathias, Oki Mek