Cleaning up the CDC

CLEANING UP THE CDC…. Arguably the only time Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), made national headlines was in October 2007, when the White House rewrote her congressional testimony on the impact of climate change on public health. Behind the scenes, though, controversies surrounding Gerberding’s tenure were even more troubling.

Rumor had it that Gerberding hoped to stay on after Obama took office. Fortunately, the incoming administration has different ideas, and the transition team has accepted her resignation.

Gerberding’s six years leading one of the nation’s most trusted institutions were marked by numerous controversies, from allegations that she allowed politics to interfere with science to concerns that her strategic decisions incapacitated the agency’s ability to respond in a public health crisis. […]

[F]or much of her tenure, many CDC employees lacked confidence in her vision for the agency. Just 48 percent of CDC staff said they had a high level of respect for the agency’s senior leaders, according to results released last year of a federal survey of government employees.

Last year, congressional investigators concluded the CDC failed “in almost every respect” to protect Hurricane Katrina’s victims from dangerous formaldehyde fumes in government-provided trailers. And Gerberding was accused of playing politics by refusing to reappoint the director of the agency’s worker safety division — a man widely respected by business leaders, labor unions and lawmakers. […]

In 2003, Gerberding launched a massive reorganization of the CDC that many employees say plunged the nation’s 911 system for public health into turmoil and caused an exodus of key scientific staff.

The CDC ranks high on the list of Bush-ified agencies, and it’s encouraging to know Obama’s team is going to help get it back on track.