Effect Measure

CDC in transition

CIDRAP News carried a short piece about the new CDC Acting Director, Dr. Richard Besser. We don’t learn a lot new beyond the official facts. The Bush CDC Director, Dr. Julie Gerberding, resigned as the Obama Presidency began. The CDC Director is a non-career appointment, which means that it is made by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. But there is as yet only a nominee for that post, Tom Daschle. The Besser appointment was thus made by the acting secretary of DHHS, Charles Johnson. Besser is a pediatrician and former Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer whose last position was dirctor of CDC’s Coordinatng Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, a position he took over two hours before Hurricane Katrina struck. He seems to have done a number of things at CDC, including foodborne disease outbreaks as an EIS officer (common fare for that position), epidemiology section chief in the Respiratory Diseases Branch, acting chief of the Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch in the National Center for Infectious Diseases, and medical director of a CDC campaign to promote appropriate antibiotic use in the community. He spent 5 years in academic medicine in the mid nineties, between his EIS stint and the other positions.

So will Besser become the new CDC Director? I don’t know. He could be just a caretaker pending a search or selection of a permanent Director after Daschle is confirmed or this could be a try-out. Whoever takes this job will have as an early task restoring the morale in an agency that has been devastated by managerial incompetence, political interference with science and a leadership that failed to champion and protect and speak for the agency and public health in general. In other words, a typical steaming pile of Bush shit. The little I’ve heard about Besser suggests he is a reasonable sort of guy.

That’s a step in the right direction. But is it a big enough step? Just askin’.

Comments

  1. #1 Avicenna
    January 30, 2009

    Rich is a good guy and smart. He’s obviously got political skills as well because he survived the Katrina disaster (the one at CDC). On the public health-academic infectious diseases spectrum he is over on the academic ID side but that hasn’t been a barrier to the directorship in the past. I think a lot of us were extremely pleased to hear he was picked to begin the rehabilitation of the agency.

  2. #2 Rich
    January 30, 2009

    Most likely he’ll be a caretaker. Koplan had a deeper resume and was the only “old boy” to run the agency in memory. So many talented senior people have left that I can’t imagine a career person getting the post, but perhaps it might go to one of the many able people who’ve left and done some time in academia or in the non-profit or global health sector. Koplan had worked for a big HMO before he was appointed.

  3. #3 Insider
    January 30, 2009

    The major rumor of the week inside CDC is that Tom Frieden is going to be the choice and will be announced within a day or two of Daschle’s confirmation. I’m not sure if this would be good or bad for CDC. Please share your thoughts if you know him.

  4. #4 revere
    January 30, 2009

    Don’t know him. I’m hearing of others who “have the inside track,” so my conclusion is that it’s still up in the air and that it hasn’t gotten the attention of the higher ups. But that’s just a guess. I’d say no one seems to know, but there seem to be a lot of people who think they know and they all seem to know different things.

  5. #5 revere
    January 30, 2009

    Don’t know him. I’m hearing of others who “have the inside track,” so my conclusion is that it’s still up in the air and that it hasn’t gotten the attention of the higher ups. But that’s just a guess. I’d say no one seems to know, but there seem to be a lot of people who think they know and they all seem to know different things.

  6. #6 Kim
    January 31, 2009

    From the little I have seen, I would say Tom Frieden would be a disaster. He seems to be someone who likes to exaggerate the scientific basis for politically palatable highly-visibile efforts that probably will have little or no impact on the actual state of the public’s health. We’ve already had plenty of that with the previous administration.

  7. #7 Frank Mirer
    January 31, 2009

    Main concern is future attitude toward NIOSH. And launching and completing search for NIOSH director. Whether NIOSH stays in CDC or goes elsewhere, the Institute has to come out of the bunker and move forward.

  8. #8 Path Forward
    January 31, 2009

    I think the world of Tom Frieden. He has championed openness, early reporting of potential incidents and outbreaks, and not being afraid to raise an alarm.

    In other words, he sees the public as resilient adults, and does not patronise them.

    I have no idea how he is as a manager, but have not heard complaints from my contacts at NYCDOHMY.

  9. #9 P.Talman
    February 1, 2009

    Hello, I know, that in China, dogs and Cats on the menue to eat.I’ff heard from people that Wild Asian Red Dog’s and African-wild dogs smels better than domestick Cat’s & Dogs. They taste like wild! Mabey itt’d a market for tjis kinds of food and you can also help the dog’s and cat’s in the weld to stay!9 i’ff heard, butt I am not a vaforite for itt, because, i try to eat so little meat as I can. Iam “poor”so I can’t always think about healt from the anymals….Sorry. Greetings from a human bean who don’t know houw must help the domesic anymals…

  10. #10 Monotreme
    February 2, 2009

    Tom Frieden, would be a complete and utter disaster.

    He has publicly stated that he doesn’t think a flu pandemic will happen, period.

    His idea of preparedness planning is to consider changing bus schedules so they aren’t so crowded.

    If he becomes head of the CDC, we are doomed, doomed, doomed.

    I cannot imagine a worse choice.