Georgia health commissioner picked as new CDC chief
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.