Home / World News / CDC director resigns because of conflicts over financial interests – The Denver Post

CDC director resigns because of conflicts over financial interests – The Denver Post

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned her position on Wednesday after only half a year because of “complex financial interests” that repeatedly forced her to recuse herself from the agency’s activities and kept her from testifying before lawmakers on public health issues.

According to a statement from the Health and Human Services department, Secretary Alex Azar, who was sworn in just two days ago, accepted Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation because she could not divest from those interests “in a definitive time period.”

Fitzgerald, 71, a physician who served as the Georgia public health commissioner until her appointment to the CDC post in July, said in an interview late last year that she already had divested from many stock holdings. But she and her husband were legally obligated to maintain other investments in cancer detection and health information technology, according to her ethics agreement, requiring Fitzgerald to pledge to avoid government business that might affect those interests.

In Congress, some lawmakers had become increasingly concerned over Fitzgerald’s ability to do her job effectively.

“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,” Sen. Patty Murray, Wash., the senior Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees the CDC, said in a statement Wednesday.

“Dr. Fitzgerald’s tenure was unfortunately the latest example of the Trump Administration’s dysfunction and lax ethical standards,” Murray continued. “I hope the incoming Secretary of Health – nominated because his predecessor resigned for using taxpayer dollars for his personal luxury travel – will encourage President Trump to choose a new CDC Director who is truly prepared to focus on families and communities.”

Murray repeatedly raised concerns about Fitzgerald’s financial investments and the broad recusals necessary to avoid conflicts of interest. In December, the senator sent Fitzgerald a letter saying those recusals prevented her from fully engaging on public health issues including cancer and the opioid epidemic.

Fitzgerald had dismissed those concerns, saying that she was following ethics rules laid out by HHS and that her recusals were “very limited.”

About three hours after HHS announced Fitzgerald’s resignation, the CDC’s chief operating officer, Sherri Berger, sent an agencywide email that announced Fitzgerald’s resignation and said Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy, will be acting director effective Wednesday.

“The leadership team remains committed to CDC’s mission of saving lives and protecting people,” the email informed staff. Schuchat, an agency veteran who is highly regarded within the agency, on Capitol Hill and in the public health community, served as acting director after Fitzgerald’s predecessor, Tom Frieden, stepped down a year ago.

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