CDC directors old and new: What sets Brenda Fitzgerald and Thomas Frieden apart?

Brenda Fitzgerald has been appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What differentiates her from Thomas Frieden, who previously held the role?

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The nation has a new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On July 7, Brenda Fitzgerald was appointed to the role.

In a statement, HHS Secretary Tom Price commented on the appointment:

Having known Dr. Fitzgerald for many years, I know that she has a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership — all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America’s health 24/7. We look forward to working with Dr. Fitzgerald to achieve President Trump’s goal of strengthening public health surveillance and ensuring global health security at home and abroad.

Fitzgerald replaces Anne Schuchat, who had been serving as acting director since January. Thomas Frieden held the position from 2009 until early this year.

Despite being tied to the same role, Fitzgerald and Frieden have differing backgrounds.

For her part, Fitzgerald is an obstetrician-gynecologist who has practiced for 30 years. Since 2011, she has served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and state health officer.

As The Wall Street Journal points out, she has ties to multiple Republican leaders from Georgia, including Secretary Price himself. Fitzgerald also served as healthcare policy advisor to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Additionally, she has a military background. Fitzgerald was a major in the U.S. Air Force and served at both the Wurtsmith Air Force Strategic Air Command Base in Michigan and the Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.

Unlike many other CDC directors, Fitzgerald doesn’t hold a master’s degree in public health. Instead, her roots — at least degree-wise — are more deeply situated in medicine. She earned her medical degree from Emory University School of Medicine.

Fitzgerald’s predecessor, Frieden, has ties to a northern state: New York. Known as an infectious disease expert, he earned a medical degree and a master’s in public health from Columbia University.

From 2002 to his CDC director appointment in 2009, Frieden served as director of the New York City Health Department. And he’s no stranger to the CDC. Between 1990 and 1992, he served as a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer.

Despite their differences, Fitzgerald and Frieden have conquered similar issues. Under Fitzgerald’s leadership, the Georgia Department of Public Health led Ebola and Zika preparedness efforts. Likewise, as CDC director, Frieden assisted with the U.S. responses to Zika in the Americas and Ebola in West Africa.

Photo: Martin Barraud, Getty Images