CDC Director Resigns Over Conflicts of Interest

Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), resigned from her appointment over financial conflicts of interest involving investments in health-care businesses. Her investments were “limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as CDC director,” according to a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees the CDC. “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”

Anne Schuchat, MD, is now acting director of the agency and acting administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Dr. Schuchat has been the CDC’s principal deputy director since 2015 and led the organization as acting director from January to July 2017, before Dr. Fitzgerald’s appointment.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s resignation follows a recent Politico report that her financial manager bought shares in Japan Tobacco and the drug companies Bayer and Merck after she took the job in July. Her predecessor Tom Frieden, MD, issued a statement after the Politico story was released: “I have spoken with Dr. Fitzgerald and believe her when she says that she was unaware that a tobacco-company investment had been made. She understands that any affiliation between the tobacco industry and public health is unacceptable. … When she learned of it, she directed that it be sold.”

Dr. Fitzgerald, a former major in the U.S. Air Force, served as Georgia’s public health commissioner before being tapped for the CDC job. She was appointed by former HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, who resigned in late September after his costly travel on chartered plans triggered investigations.

Sources: AP News, January 31, 2018; The Washington Post, February 2, 2018.