Gerberding Resigns as CDC Head

Alice Goodman

January 12, 2009

January 12, 2009 — Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, resigned as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a Friday night email to employees of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the umbrella agency for CDC.

Her more than 6-year tenure has been marked by controversy. Supporters praised her communication skills with legislators and the public and acknowledged that she improved the agency's ability to respond to public health crises. Detractors criticized her for kowtowing to Bush administration political positions to the detriment of the agency's scientific agenda and for leading a morale-damaging reorganization of the CDC that led to an exodus of high-level scientists.

Dr. Gerberding will be replaced by interim director William Gimson, CDC's chief operating deputy, on January 20, President-Elect Barack Obama's inauguration day. No permanent replacement has been named yet, but public health experts are speculating about who her successor might be.

Dr. Gerberding was the first female head of the CDC, an agency mandated to investigate disease outbreaks, research the cause and prevalence of public health problems, and promote illness prevention. The CDC won high marks from a 2007 Harris Poll, rating it as the government agency that does the best job. Dr. Gerberding was also director of the CDC's sister organization, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Both agencies have a combined budget of about $8.8 billion and more than 14,000 full-time, part-time, and contract employees.

Dr. Gerberding was traveling in Africa and could not be reached for comment, according to a report in the New York Times. CDC spokesman Glen Nowak prepared the following statement: "As part of the transition process, the Administration requested resignation letters from a number of senior-level officials, including Dr. Julie Gerberding. This week, the Administration accepted Dr. Gerberding's resignation, effective January 20th."

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