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Elizabeth Chen named to head state elder affairs office

Elizabeth Chen was the first female president of New England School of Optometry.
Elizabeth Chen was the first female president of New England School of Optometry.(Globe Staff/File)

Veteran health care and biotech leader Elizabeth Chen has been tapped to be the next Massachusetts secretary of elder affairs, the Baker Administration said Friday.

Chen, now the state’s assistant public health commissioner, will take the helm at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs on June 3. She’ll replace Alice Bonner, who stepped down in January to take a job with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Boston. Bonner’s deputy, Robin Lipson, has served as interim elder affairs secretary for the past three months.

At the office of elder affairs, Chen, 55, an expert on advanced care planning, will spearhead Gov. Charlie Baker’s push to promote healthy aging and be a leader in the “age-friendly” movement, including a growing effort to make Massachusetts a global hub for so-called age-tech innovation. She’ll report to Marylou Sudders, the state secretary of health and human services. Neither Chen nor Sudders were available for interviews Friday.

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Chen, a Lexington resident, has an undergraduate degree from Yale and a business degree from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. She also earned a masters in public health from Harvard and a PhD in gerontology from the University of Massachusetts. She’s a former president of the New England College of Optometry and New England Eye Institute. She has also headed a pair of biotechs, Circe Biomedical and Marathon Biopharmaceuticals.


Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.