New CDC Director is Experienced, But Controversial

Article

Robert Redfield has years of experience as a clinician and researcher, but lacks public health credentials.

Robert Redfield, MD

Robert Redfield, MD

A prominent HIV/AIDS researcher has been selected as the 18th director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Robert R. Redfield, MD, is a leading virologist who has researched HIV and other infectious diseases for 30 years, including 20 years of service with the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

Following his military service, Redfield cofounded the University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology and served as the Chief of Infectious Diseases and Vice Chair of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He also oversaw a clinical program in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area that provided HIV care and treatment to more than 5000 patients.

Redfield’s supporters offer generous words, describing his dedication and compassion for patients. “Dr. Redfield has dedicated his entire life to promoting public health and providing compassionate care to his patients,” said Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in a statement. “We are proud to welcome him as director of the world’s premier epidemiological agency.”

“Dr. Redfield is eminently qualified for this critical position,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland Baltimore, and the John Z. Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. "He has made a lifelong commitment to advancing biomedical research and human health through discovery-based medicine."

Redfield succeeds Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, who resigned earlier this year due to controversy surrounding her investments in tobacco stocks.

However, controversy continues as certain public figures voice opposition to Redfield’s appointment.

Senator Murray of Washington is among the voices calling on President Trump to reconsider Redfield’s appointment, which will not require Senate confirmation.

In a letter, the Senator expressed her concerns about “Dr. Redfield’s lack of ­­public health expertise and his failure to embrace the science underscoring critical public health work.”

Not all Democratic leaders agree with the Senator's views, however. “Although I seldom agree with the Trump administration, I am in complete agreement that Dr. Bob Redfield is the best choice to lead the CDC," said Congressman Elijah Cummings.

Senator Murray also said that Redfield supported the Army’s practice of separating soldiers living with HIV from others. The practice meant that HIV positive soldiers lived in segregated housing that became known as the “HIV hotel” and “the leper colony” at Fort Hood.

Redfield was investigated by the US Army in 1993 for misrepresenting data about gp-160, an experimental vaccine designed for AIDS, at an international conference. He was also criticized for working closely with Americans for Sound AIDS Policy, a conservative lobbying group.

“What one wants in a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a scientist of impeccable scientific integrity,” said Peter Lurie, MD, MPH, executive director and president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit nutrition and food-safety watchdog organization. “What one would get in Robert Redfield is a sloppy scientist with a long history of scientific misconduct and an extreme religious agenda.”

Redfield begins his role at a critical time for the CDC. Drug-resistant microbes are emerging, diseases easily cross international borders, and the US is reckoning with a nationwide opioid use epidemic. As researcher and clinician, Redfield faces public health issues that would present a challenge to even a seasoned public health administrator.

Recent Videos
Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD, an expert on HIV
Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD, an expert on HIV
Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD, an expert on HIV
Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD, an expert on HIV
Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD, an expert on HIV
Shauna Applin, ARNP, an expert on HIV
Shauna Applin, ARNP, an expert on HIV
Shauna Applin, ARNP, an expert on HIV
A panel of 4 experts on HIV
A panel of 4 experts on HIV
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.