AIDS Researcher Dr Robert Redfield Named New CDC Director

New CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, replaces the acting director, who led the agency through the severe flu season after Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, resigned at the end of January.

AIDS researcher Robert Redfield, MD, was officially named the new director of the CDC in an announcement by HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday. Redfield served as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 2005 to 2009.

“Dr Redfield has dedicated his entire life to promoting public health and providing compassionate care to his patients, and we are proud to welcome him as director of the world’s premier epidemiological agency,” Azar said in a statement.

Redfield was a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a co-founder of the Institute for Human Virology (IHV), where he oversaw clinical care and research, and helped treat approximately 6000 people in Baltimore and Washington, DC. In a statement, Robert C. Gallo, MD, the co-founder and director of IHV, said that Redfield was an “excellent choice” to lead the CDC and noted Redfield’s experience confronting the HIV and epidemics in Maryland.

“Dr Redfield was one of my early collaborators in co-discovering HIV as the cause of AIDS and demonstrating heterosexual transmission of AIDS,” said Gallo. “He is a dedicated and compassionate physician who truly cares about his patients and is deeply committed to ensuring patients receive the highest quality of care possible. Dr Redfield has served his country well, and consistently demonstrates strong public health instincts that are grounded in science and clinical medicine.

However, Redfield’s appointment is not without controversy. Recent concerns over flawed HIV research from 20 years ago caused Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, to call on the Trump administration to reconsider the appointment. She also wrote that Redfield had a history of advocating for controversial practices, such as mandatory HIV testing and segregation of HIV-positive soldiers, that raise privacy and discrimination concerns.

“…I believe the CDC director must first and foremost be a champion of public health and ensure this administration embraces the science around public health in both its domestic and global work,” Murray wrote on March 20. “I am concerned by Dr Redfield’s lack of public health expertise and his failure to embrace the science underscoring public health work…”

Redfield takes over the agency from Anne Schuchat, MD, who was the acting director of the CDC after Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, resigned at the end of January amid reports that she traded tobacco stocks while heading the agency. Schuchat ran the agency through an especially severe flu season.