Brenda Fitzgerald

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Brenda Fitzgerald
Brenda Fitzgerald official photo.jpg
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In office
July 7, 2017 – January 31, 2018
Leader Tom Price
Preceded by Tom Frieden
Succeeded by Robert R. Redfield
Commissioner of the
Georgia Department of Public Health
In office
June 29, 2011 – July 7, 2017
Governor Nathan Deal
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by J. Patrick O'Neal
Personal details
Education Georgia State University (BS)
Emory University (MD)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Air Force
Rank US-O4 insignia.svg Major
Unit U.S. Air Force Medical Corps

Brenda Fitzgerald is an American obstetrician-gynecologist who was the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between July 2017 and January 2018.[1] Previously, she was the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health from 2011 to 2017.[2]

Early life and career

In 1972, Fitzgerald received her Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from Georgia State University.[3] She went on to medical school at Emory University, where she graduated in 1977,[3] completed post-graduate training and became an assistant clinical professor.[2] She then joined the United States Air Force, where she served first at Wurtsmith Air Force Base and later at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. She attained the rank of Major in the Air Force.[2]

After leaving the Air force, Fizgerald entered private practice specializing in gynecology and obstetrics. While in private practice, Fitzgerald promoted "anti-aging medicines" to her patients, medicines which have been criticized as being unsupported by scientific evidence and potentially dangerous.[4][5] She has received board certification from the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, though that organization has not been recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.[5]

In 2011, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal appointed Fitzgerald as Director of the state's Division of Public Health (later Commissioner of the Department of Public Health[6]), which office oversees the state's eighteen health districts and the health departments of the 159 counties.[7] During her tenure as Georgia’s commissioner of public health, the state improved on some measures, such as immunization coverage for teenagers; but in a combined-outcomes assessment, calculated annually for each state, Georgia’s ranking dropped from 37th place in 2011 to 41st 2016.[8] In 2013, Fitzgerald started a $1.2 million statewide school exercise program, "Power Up for 30", with a $1 million donation by The Coca-Cola Company.[9] The Atlanta soft-drink company's donation was part of a broader $3.8 million pledge to the state in Coke's campaign to combat the obesity epidemic with changes to exercise rather than diet.[9]

Professionally, Fitzgerald has served as president of the Georgia OB-GYN Society. She has served as a board member of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials,[10] Georgia Public Policy Foundation, Paul Coverdell Leadership Institute, Georgia State School Board, Voices for Georgia’s Children, the Advanced Academy of Georgia, the University of West Georgia Foundation, and the Carrollton Rotary Club.[2]


In 1994, Fitzgerald ran for the Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District in Georgia. She lost to Bob Barr, gaining 43% of the vote.[11] During the campaign she and Newt Gingrich threw symbolic crates of tea into the Chattahoochee River as a bit of political theater.[12]

Director of the CDC

In July 2017, Fitzgerald was appointed by Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, to succeed Thomas R. Frieden as the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[13] Anne Schuchat had been acting as interim director since Dr. Frieden's resignation was effective on January 20, 2017.[14]

Fitzgerald was replaced as Georgia's Commissioner of the Department of Public Health by Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal as an interim commissioner.[15]

The Washington Post described her tenure as CDC Director as "low-profile", noting that she has made very few public statements.[16] She has furthermore on at least three occasions sent her deputies to testify in congressional hearings about the opioid epidemic while the agency heads of other agencies testified themselves.[16]

Conflicts of interest

By December 2017 and after five months in office, Fitzgerald had yet to divest her financial holdings that posed conflicts of interest in her position at the CDC.[16] Democratic Senator Patty Murray raised questions as to Fitzgerald's ability to lead the CDC's anti-opioid programs given her financial stake in prescription drug monitoring programs.[16]

In January 2018, Politico reported that Fitzgerald had bought shares in the Japan Tobacco company one month after assuming office as Director of the CDC.[17] The investment raised ethical concerns given the CDC's mission to reduce tobacco use, which is the leading cause of preventable disease in the United States.[17] She sold the stocks a few months later.[17] One day after Politico's story broke, Fitzgerald resigned as Director of the CDC on January 31, 2018.[1]


  1. ^ a b Hellmann, Jessie (31 January 2018). "CDC head resigns after report she traded tobacco stocks". The Hill. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. Commissioner". Georgia Department of Public Health. September 20, 2013. Archived from the original on October 30, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Branswell, Helen (July 6, 2017). "Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald is named new CDC director". Stat. Archived from the original on July 7, 2017.
  4. ^ Levitz, Eric (July 10, 2017). "Trump's CDC Pick Peddled 'Anti-Aging' Medicine to Her Gynecologic Patients". New York.
  5. ^ a b Rubin, Rita (July 9, 2017). "New CDC Head Fitzgerald Peddled Controversial 'Anti-Aging Medicine' Before Leaving Private Practice". Forbes. Archived from the original on July 10, 2017.
  6. ^ Hastings, Terry (July 19, 2012). "Georgia Commissioner of Public Health to address obesity in Georgia" (Press release). UGA Today. Archived from the original on August 6, 2012.
  7. ^ "Ob/gyn to oversee public health system". George Health News. February 8, 2011. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017.
  8. ^ Lloyd, Robin (July 14, 2017). "Trump's Incoming CDC Chief Brings a Mixed Record on Public Health". Undark Magazine. Archived from the original on July 14, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Kaplan, Sheila (July 23, 2017). "New C.D.C. Chief Saw Coca-Cola as Ally in Obesity Fight". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  10. ^ "ASTHO Board of Directors". Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Archived from the original on June 28, 2017.
  11. ^ "GA District 7 - R Primary". Our Campaigns. Archived from the original on July 6, 2017.
  12. ^ "Newt Gingrich, Brenda Fitzgerald". Herald-Tribune. Sarasota, Florida. December 19, 2011. Archived from the original on October 20, 2014.
  13. ^ Steenhuysen, Julie (July 7, 2017). "Georgia public health official to head U.S. CDC". Reuters. Archived from the original on July 7, 2017.
  14. ^ Hensley, Ellie (January 19, 2017). "CDC appoints acting director". Atlanta Business Chronicle. Archived from the original on July 7, 2017.
  15. ^ Salzer, James (July 7, 2017). "Gov. Deal picks interim Georgia public health director". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on July 7, 2017. (Subscription required (help)).
  16. ^ a b c d Sun, Lena H.; Crites, Alice (2017-12-11). "New CDC head faces questions about financial conflicts of interest". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  17. ^ a b c "Trump's top health official traded tobacco stock while leading anti-smoking efforts". Politico. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
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