A Carrollton doctor has been named to lead the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government’s top public health agency.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald is an OB-GYN and had been head of the Georgia Department of Public Health since 2011. She succeeds Dr. Tom Frieden, who resigned as CDC director in January at the end of the Obama administration.
Also, Courtney Austin Lawrence, a graduate of Oak Mountain Academy and the daughter of Dr. Gordon T. Austin and Meredith Austin of Carrollton, has been confirmed as the new deputy assistant secretary for legislation at the Department of Health and Human Services. Lawrence resides in Washington, D.C.
Lawrence is responsible for the human services portfolio which includes the Administration for Children and Families, the Administration for Community Living, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Indian Health Service, the Office of the National Coordinator and Health IT.
Fitzgerald will also serve as administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Carroll County Board of Commissioners Chairman Marty Smith said Fitzgerald is an “excellent choice” for the position, and noted some of her contributions to the community in recent years.
“Dr. Fitzgerald has been a wonderful partner as we worked together on the Carroll County Health Department,” said Smith. “She was instrumental in partnering the state and county participants together to make the funding come together for the project. She recognizes the importance of communication and coming together as a team to accomplish goals and she will be even more successful in her new role. I am excited and proud for her.”
“Having known Dr. Fitzgerald for many years, I know that she has a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy, and leadership — all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America’s health 24/7,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who appointed Fitzgerald. “We look forward to working with Dr. Fitzgerald to achieve President Trump’s goal of strengthening public health surveillance and ensuring global health security at home and abroad.”
Gov. Nathan Deal called Fitzgerald an asset to the state of Georgia.
“I am immensely proud of my friend and colleague Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, and I am grateful to her for her tireless work to promote the health and well-being of Georgia’s citizens,” Deal said in a prepared statement. “I know she will bring the same determination and persistence to her new role of CDC director, working for the good of the entire country. I want to thank President Trump for naming one of our own to this prominent role...”
Fitzgerald is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist who has practiced medicine for over 30 years. While leading the Georgia Department of Health, Fitzgerald oversaw various state public health programs and directed the state’s 18 public health districts and 159 county health departments. Prior to that, she served on the board and as president of the Georgia OB-GYN Society and worked as a health care policy advisor with House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Paul Coverdell. She has served as a Senior Fellow and Chairman of the Board for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
Fitzgerald, who is married to Dr. Tom Fitzgerald of Carrollton, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in m microbiology from Georgia State University and a Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine. She completed post-graduate training at the Emory-Grady Hospitals in Atlanta and held an assistant clinical professorship at Emory Medical Center. As a major in the U.S. Air Force, Fitzgerald served at the Wurtsmith Air Force Strategic Air Command Base in Michigan and at the Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.
“I am humbled by the challenges that lie ahead, yet I am confident that the successes we’ve had in Georgia will provide me with a foundation for guiding the work of the CDC,” Fitzgerald said in statement released to the media. “The progress we’ve made in Georgia around early brain development, childhood obesity and creating a model for addressing the Ebola epidemic would not have been possible without the full support of Gov. Deal and a dedicated public health staff.”
Fitzgerald has had strong ties to the Republican Party. She was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress twice in the 1990s. She was also a health care policy adviser to Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, and the late Sen. Paul Coverdell.
Fitzgerald is respected in the public health community, and her choice drew approval from Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
“From her work as a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist to her recent service as the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, Dr. Fitzgerald is more than prepared to face the health challenges of our time, including climate change, Zika, Ebola, and our growing burden of chronic disease,” Benjamin said in a statement.
The Atlanta-based CDC, with a budget of about $12 billion, investigates disease outbreaks, researches the cause and frequency of health problems and promotes prevention efforts. It is the only federal agency headquartered outside of Washington, D.C., and has nearly 12,000 employees and 10,000 contractors worldwide.
Her first day at CDC was July 7. A CDC spokeswoman said Fitzgerald was not available for interviews.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.