The Trump administration has named Georgia health commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, to be the next CDC director.
Fitzgerald, an OB/GYN, has led the Georgia Department of Public Health for the past 6 years. She replaces Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, who stepped down as CDC director when President Donald J. Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20. Anne Schuchat, MD, has been acting CDC director since then and will return to her role as principal deputy director of the agency, according to an HHS news release.
Thomas R. Frieden
Frieden, whose nearly 8-year tenure as CDC chief was tested by pandemics of influenza, Ebola and Zika, said he wishes Fitzgerald well.
“Her experience as state health commissioner is important to understanding the needs of public health. By listening to and supporting CDC staff, she can succeed,” Frieden told Infectious Disease News. “One key question will be whether she can get the administration to support a stable or, preferably, increased budget for CDC in [fiscal year 2019], and, even sooner, to get HHS to allow CDC to hire and promote staff as needed to continue to protect Americans.”
Fitzgerald has a BS in microbiology from Georgia State University and an MD from Emory University. She was a major in the U.S. Air Force, serving at bases in Michigan and Washington, D.C., and lost two bids to represent Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the 1990s, running both times as a Republican, according to reports.
“Having known Dr. Fitzgerald for many years, I know that she has a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership — all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America’s health 24/7,” HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Dr. Fitzgerald to achieve President Trump's goal of strengthening public health surveillance and ensuring global health security at home and abroad.”
In her position as Georgia health commissioner, Fitzgerald oversaw numerous public health programs, including one for infectious diseases and immunizations. As commissioner, she wrote two pro-vaccination columns for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
This may ease the worries of some infectious diseases experts who have voiced concerns about Trump’s publicly stated position on vaccines — he favors them, but believes they should be delivered in smaller doses over a longer period of time — and worry that he may align with certain anti-vaccine views, like the belief they cause autism.
Fitzgerald’s columns were titled “Babies need their vaccines” and “Stop measles in its tracks.”
“I’ve heard all the arguments against vaccination. All have been debunked,” she wrote in 2014. “As a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, I have seen the devastating and painful effects of whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable diseases. I’ve seen mothers who fear every gasp of air might be their babies’ last. Get vaccinated. Help spread the truth on vaccines, not the diseases they prevent.” – by Gerard Gallagher
Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Babies need their vaccines. 2014. http://www.myajc.com/news/opinion/babies-need-their-vaccines/IGKLyoboRuqjtZ3geQxUoO/. Accessed July 7, 2017.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Stop measles in its tracks. 2015. http://atlantaforward.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/19/changes-ahead-for-dfcs/. Accessed July 7, 2017.
Disclosure: Frieden is the former CDC director.