Ge­or­gia health com­mis­sioner picked as new CDC chief

Modern Healthcare - - LATE NEWS - —Steven Ross John­son

HHS Sec­re­tary Dr. Tom Price late last week tapped Dr. Brenda Fitzger­ald to be the next di­rec­tor of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and

Pre­ven­tion. She will also serve as ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Agency for Toxic Sub­stances and Dis­ease Reg­istry, Price said in the an­nounce­ment.

Fitzger­ald has served as Ge­or­gia’s public health com­mis­sioner since 2011. She is a board-cer­ti­fied OB-GYN.

Fitzger­ald has han­dled a num­ber of public health crises with na­tional im­pli­ca­tions. In 2014, she led a task force to pre­pare Ge­or­gia’s re­sponse for a po­ten­tial Ebola out­break. More re­cently, she was tasked to lead the state’s ef­fort to com­bat the Zika virus. Ge­or­gia had 118 cases re­ported from Jan­uary 2016 to May 2017.

“The aca­demic public health com­mu­nity looks for­ward to work­ing con­struc­tively with Dr. Fitzger­ald to ad­vance our shared agenda of im­prov­ing health lo­cally, na­tion­ally and glob­ally through the creation, trans­mis­sion and ap­pli­ca­tion of public health knowl­edge and a well-pre­pared and resourced public health work­force,” Donna Petersen, chair of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Schools and Pro­grams of Public Health, said in a state­ment.

Pre­vi­ously, Fitzger­ald worked as a health­care pol­icy ad­viser for then-House Speaker Newt Gin­grich and Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) and served as a ma­jor in the U.S. Air Force.

“She has a real pas­sion for im­prov­ing peo­ple’s health,” said Amer­i­can Public Health As­so­ci­a­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Dr. Ge­orges Ben­jamin. Ben­jamin said he hoped Fitzger­ald’s fa­mil­iar­ity with Price, a for­mer Ge­or­gia con­gress­man, would pro­vide her with ac­cess to make a strong case for strength­en­ing fund­ing sup­port for the CDC.

“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,” Price said in a state­ment.

The CDC stands to lose as much as 12% of its over­all bud­get if the Se­nate’s Bet­ter Care Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Act be­comes law. The bill calls for elim­i­nat­ing the Pre­ven­tion and Public Health Fund, which was cre­ated un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act and pro­vides more than $600 mil­lion an­nu­ally to state and mu­nic­i­pal health de­part­ments to fund infectious and chronic dis­ease pro­grams, as well as sup­port emer­gency pre­pared­ness ef­forts.

“She un­der­stands what the pre­ven­tion fund does and how other CDC fund­ing sup­port the states,” Ben­jamin said.

Fitzger­ald re­places Dr. Anne Schuchat, who has been in­terim CDC di­rec­tor since Dr. Tom Frieden re­signed in Jan­uary. Schuchat is ex­pected to re­turn to her for­mer role as CDC prin­ci­pal deputy di­rec­tor, ac­cord­ing to an HHS state­ment.


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