Thompson Submits Candidates for CDC Director Position
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson last week reportedly submitted to the White House the names of two candidates to fill the position of director of the CDC, which has been vacant since Dr. Jeffrey Koplan resigned March 31, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. One candidate, Dr. Julie Gerberding, is the CDC's acting deputy director for science and is the "lead contender" for the position, according to not-for-profit and scientific public health groups. Gerberding, who would be the first woman to head the agency, started at the CDC in 1998 (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/29). According to the AP/Nando Times, Gerberding was "one of CDC's most quoted, unflappable investigators" after last year's anthrax attacks (Neergaard, AP/Nando Times, 6/28). The other candidate, Dr. Robert Redfield, is a career Army physician who was one of the military's chief AIDS researchers and now works at the University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/29). Redfield's candidacy surprised public health groups in part because he is "known for his search for AIDS treatments, not for prevention," the AP/Nando Times reports. HHS plans to announce a new director "very soon," agency officials said (AP/Nando Times, 6/28).
The Washington Post today profiles three other "top candidates" for the CDC position, including the following:
- David Fleming: Fleming is the CDC's acting director and "played a key role in decision-making" during last year's anthrax attacks and subsequent investigations, the Post reports. He began his public health career at the CDC and returned to the agency in 2000 after serving as director of Oregon's Center for Disease Prevention and Epidemiology.
- Antonia Novello: Novello is New York state's commissioner of health and served as U.S. surgeon general from 1990 to 1993, during which time she focused on women's, children's and minority health, underage drinking, smoking cessation and HIV/AIDS prevention. She has held positions at NIH and is a kidney specialist and a pediatrician.
- Ed Thompson: Thompson is a Mississippi health officer, a public health physician and the former president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers. Thompson supports "expanding CDC's capacity to monitor chronic diseases and their potential links to environmental exposures," the Post reports (Okie, Washington Post, 7/1).
The director vacancy and other "tensions" with the Bush administration have "weakened and demoralized" the CDC, according to some current and former officials, the Post reports. The friction stems from factors including criticism of how the CDC handled last year's anthrax attacks, administration efforts to change policy concerning sex education and HIV prevention and "micromanagement" of routine activities ranging from press releases to travel authorizations. According to the Post, some CDC officials worry that the disagreements will "hinder" the agency's ability to respond at a "crucial moment" to a public health emergency. Although HHS has encouraged its 11 agencies to try to speak with "one voice," some CDC employees believe such a tactic will "stifle scientific debate, especially on controversial topics." But some HHS and CDC "top officials" say that the tensions within the agency are just the "normal process of adjusting to a new administration." Michael Osterholm, a special adviser to the HHS Office of Public Health Preparedness, said, "I think the relationship ... is actually in one of the most collaborative and professionally positive modes that I've seen in many years" (Okie, Washington Post, 7/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.