AIDS Researcher Robert Redfield Picked to Lead the CDC

Megan Brooks

March 21, 2018

President Donald J. Trump has tapped virologist and HIV/AIDS pioneer Robert R. Redfield, MD, to be the 18th director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

President Trump's first CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, resigned in January after about 6 months on the job in the wake of revelations that she held investments in several food, drug, and tobacco companies that posed potential conflicts of interest. Anne Schuchat, MD, has been serving as acting CDC director.

Dr Robert Redfield (Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Aid for AIDS)

In a statement announcing the appointment, US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said, "Dr Redfield has dedicated his entire life to promoting public health and providing compassionate care to his patients, and we are proud to welcome him as director of the world's premier epidemiological agency."

"Dr Redfield's scientific and clinical background is peerless: As just one example, during his two-decade tenure at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, he made pioneering contributions to advance our understanding of HIV/AIDS," Azar said.

In the early days of the AIDS crisis, Dr Redfield made several important contributions to the scientific understanding of HIV, including the demonstration of the importance of heterosexual transmission, the development of the Walter Reed staging system for HIV infection, and the demonstration of active HIV replication in all stages of HIV infection.

"His more recent work running a treatment network in Baltimore for HIV and Hepatitis C patients also prepares him to hit the ground running on one of HHS and CDC's top priorities, combating the opioid epidemic," Azar said.

Redfield is professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and cofounder and associate director of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In a statement, Robert Gallo, MD, cofounder and director of the IHV, said Dr Redfield is a "dedicated and compassionate physician who truly cares about his patients and is deeply committed to ensuring patients receive the highest quality of care possible. Dr Redfield has served his country well, and consistently demonstrates strong public health instincts that are grounded in science and clinical medicine. In my view, despite the loss to the Institute, I believe this makes him the ideal candidate to direct the CDC."

Dr Redfield served as a member of the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 2005 to 2009. He is a past member of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council at the National Institutes of Health, the Fogarty International Center Advisory Board at the National Institutes of Health, and the Anti-Infective Drugs Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration.

In the early 1990s, Dr Redfield was the subject of a US Army investigation into allegations that he had intentionally overstated the results of a therapeutic HIV vaccine undergoing clinical trials. However, the Army cleared Dr Redfield of these charges.

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