Anne Schuchat has been tapped to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention following the resignation of the former director Wednesday.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald resigned from the role after Politico reported that she had invested in tobacco stocks after becoming the agency's director. The CDC carries out a wide range of public heath efforts, including those aimed at smoking cessation. Fitzgerald's resignation came two days after a new secretary was sworn in to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC and other agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.
Schuchat, who was the principal deputy director at CDC, also worked as the acting director when the Trump administration took the helm at the White House in January 2017, until Fitzgerald arrived in July. She has been at the agency since 1988 and has overseen vaccine and bacteria prevention programs. She led the response to the 2009 flu pandemic as well as the response to the SARS outbreak in Beijing in 2003.
HHS said in a statement that Azar accepted Fitzgerald's resignation because she did not divest from certain financial interests “in a definitive time period.” Fitzgerald had been selected by Tom Price, the former HHS secretary who resigned after Politico reported that tax dollars went toward his private jet travel. Fitzgerald had been the public health commissioner in Georgia, where Price had been a congressman before heading to HHS.
During the last few months, Fitzgerald had to recuse herself from several public health hearings to avoid conflicts of interests associated with her stock holdings. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., had repeatedly raised concerns about that trend.
“It is unacceptable that the person responsible for leading our nation’s public health efforts has, for months, been unable to fully engage in the critical work she was appointed to do. Dr. Fitzgerald’s tenure was unfortunately the latest example of the Trump administration’s dysfunction and lax ethical standards," Murray said in a statement.