- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

A scientist who helped pioneer AIDS protection for hospital workers and went on to battle anthrax has been chosen to lead the nation's top public health agency, administration officials said yesterday.
Dr. Julie Gerberding will become the first female director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson will appoint her today in a ceremony at the CDC's Atlanta headquarters, said administration officials on the condition of anonymity.
Dr. Gerberding is an infectious-disease specialist who became one of the agency's most quoted investigators during the anthrax attacks in the fall.
Numerous health organizations had lobbied Mr. Thompson and the White House to appoint her to lead the CDC, saying her anthrax-related experience would prove crucial as the agency prepares against another bioterrorism strike.
"She's somebody who has been able to withstand the pressure and take the heat and always use good science-based judgment to make decisions," said Dr. James Curran of Emory University, former AIDS chief at the CDC. He has known Dr. Gerberding for more than a decade.
But she faces some immediate challenges, such as ensuring that the CDC is ready should bioterrorism strike again even as it fights everyday diseases. Another major task is learning to work with the CIA, FBI and proposed Homeland Security Department, a function new to CDC's doctors.
Dr. Gerberding had no comment yesterday on the new post. But she acknowledged that blending the CDC's scientific work into the new terrorism-defense bureaucracy will take effort.
Indeed, the scientists at the CDC who understand bioterrorism best also are its experts on West Nile virus and other, more common, threats to people's health. The CDC has explained to Washington officials that infectious disease is infectious disease, whether it's natural or weaponized, and that the centers' experts can't be expected do antiterrorism work only.
"We feel very optimistic our perspective is being heard," Dr. Gerberding said Monday. "The bottom line is we support this, and we're going to make it work."
Dr. Gerberding, 46, had been the CDC's acting deputy director for science, part of a four-member team in charge of the agency while the Bush administration looked for a new director. Dr. Jeffrey Koplan stepped down as CDC director on March 31, saying it was time to move on after more than three years on the job.
Members of Congress had strongly criticized the CDC for its delayed reaction when anthrax struck and for its vague public communication during the crisis.
Once the CDC began explaining anthrax risks, Dr. Gerberding quickly became a chief spokesman, winning attention in Washington and the confidence of Mr. Thompson. That left health officials and other CDC watchers hoping Dr. Gerberding's appointment was an indication that the agency will be more open with the public should crisis strike again.

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