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CDC Director resigns over financial conflicts

CDC Director resigns over financial conflicts”

"Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director", the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

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 past year that she already had divested from many stock holdings.

Fitzgerald kept a low-profile in the job.

"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.

In a statement in November, Fitzgerald highlighted CDC data that illustrated the extent of tobacco use among U.S. adults, stating, "Too many Americans are harmed by cigarette smoking, which is the nation's leading preventable cause of death and disease".

Fitzgerald's exit came four months after Tom Price resigned as the Health and Human Services Secretary after days of public outcry over his use of expensive private jets to conduct government business. She recused herself from working on issues related to cancer and opioids, two major public health threats, because of investments that she said were hard to divest.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC principal deputy director with 30 years at the agency, will take over until a new director is named, the CDC said in a statement.

Dr. Tom Frieden, who headed the CDC under President Barack Obama, defended Fitzgerald "as someone who was committed to supporting public health and protecting Americans". "After advising Secretary Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the Secretary accepted, her resignation".

A physician and former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, Fitzgerald is the second high-profile health official in the year-old Republican Trump administration to leave over financial and ethical questions. She waited 133 days before holding her first agencywide staff meeting, on November 17. Then Politico reported yesterday that she purchased shares in Japan Tobacco last summer after she arrived at CDC. An HHS spokesman confirmed "the potentially conflicting" stock purchases. She said in the agreement that she would not participate in matters that might affect those companies.

"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, and that when she learned of it, she directed that it be sold", Frieden said.

Fitzgerald's departure took almost all of the agency's staff and the nation's public health leaders by surprise. It's something that any CDC director is going to have to actively address.

Fitzgerald was a longtime OB-GYN in the Atlanta area, a former major in the U.S. Air Force, and campaigned twice, unsuccessfully, as a Republican candidate for Congress in the 1990s.



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