Dr. Bernadine Healy, dean of the Ohio State University Medical School and former head of the National Institutes of Health, has been chosen by the American Red Cross to be its next president.
Healy, a health contributor for CBS News, will replace Elizabeth Dole, who resigned in January to seek the Republican nomination for president.
"This is a challenge based on something that I passionately believe in, which is to prevent and relieve human suffering," Healy told CBS News in an interview Friday. "That's why I became a doctor. That's what made the American Red Cross a position I just couldn't say no to."
The appointment was announced Thursday at Red Cross headquarters. When she takes over the post full time in September, she will become the first medical doctor to head the organization in its almost 120-year history.
"For most of my life I have been a 'first woman' in a job," Healy says. "It's such a pleasure to be the first doctor."
Healy says the American Red Cross will continue to respond to the needs of the public, aiding in disasters and preparing for whatever medical assistance may be necessary.
She says the organization will also prepare for the future, expanding a short blood supply, taking measures to prevent illnesses and offering help for the mentally ill, a group whose suffering has been largely ignored until recently.
"The American Red Cross has always provided emotional shelter as well as physical shelter," Healy says. "It has expanded its role with regard to mental health counseling."
Healy says she is proud to take up the lead of the American Red Cross's founder, Clara Barton, a famous Civil War battlefield nurse.
"I'm honored that I will be following her steps in taking the American Red cross into the next millennium."
Healy, 54, is a nationally recognized health-care scholar and expert on women's health. She directed the NIH under President George Bush. She will continue her consulting role for CBS.