Revere: Politicization Of The Centers For Disease Control
January 10, 2009
A great fear among many in the public health community was that Obama would not expeditiously replace Dr. Julie Gerberding as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (aka, the CDC). It is a relief to say that she will be out in 9 days, although she isn’t going willingly and will wring every last second of power and salary out of it: literally. Her requested resignation is effective at noon on January 20 just as Obama becomes the 44th President of the United States:
CDC Director Julie Gerberding’s controversial tenure will end Jan. 20 — after Barack Obama is sworn in as president, employees of the Atlanta-based agency were informed in an email sent late Friday evening.
“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 20. As Dr. Gerberding noted in a November e-mail to CDC leadership, she has always expected that she would be leaving after the administration changes,” the written statement said. (Alison Young, Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Gerberding has been accused — correctly in our opinion — of politicizing the agency, destroying CDC’s morale, reorganizing its structure and its priorities to within an inch of its useful life, and failing to defend the agency and public health in general in the face of a systematic onslaught by the Bush administration. Her management style was autocratic and hamhanded and she repeatedly allowed incompetent cronies and lapdogs to make important decisions about scientific programs. She was a sycophant of the first order. Good riddance. Gerberding did have one real strength. She was an amazingly effective and credible public communicator, an extremely valuable skill. Unfortunately there was so much else bad.
Until a new Secretary of Health and Human Services is confirmed (presumably it will be Obama’s nominee, Tom Daschle), CDC will be run by an Acting Director, its Chief Operating Officer William Gimson, a Gerberding loyalist and apparatchik. This is a caretaking role. We hope Dashcle acts quickly to name someone with a reputation for integrity who has the respect of CDC scientists and the public health community. Gerberding didn’t. Three years ago, five former CDC Directors took the unprecedented move of writing an open letter warning the agency had lost its way as a result of her attempts to reorganize it. She continued on the same path and as a result the predicted loss of key scientific talent and institutional memory continued. CDC is now a much weaker, less respected and less effective public health agency at a time when we need the opposite.
Another (dangerous) Bush legacy.