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Reflections on the Centers for Disease Control Leadership

What one former CDC staffer has to say about CDC culture.

by Eric Holdeman / July 14, 2020

I had the opportunity to ask a former senior CDC official to share what he thought about the current situation with the CDC being sidelined early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts to the morale of CDC staff.

He gave me a short response that also delved into a bit of the leadership culture that he has seen at the top levels of the agency over recent administrations. Let me be clear, I'm not sharing this to "run the CDC into the ground" but, I do seek to provide balanced information to the readers of this blog and it should not be surprising to anyone who has watched government agencies with a variety of leadership types use their positions to advance their personal agendas.

The CDC is (was?) before this administration considered the gold standard in the world for what a disease prevention and response organization should look like. Like every organization, they may have feet of clay, which does not diminish the important role they need to play now in this pandemic.

Here are the reflections:

"It’s rather disheartening to many of us that helped to develop the original Domestic Preparedness Program, PDD#38, Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act, etc., to see those hard-won gains now squandered. It’s sad and a very dangerous place for our nation to be.

CDC career staff have been collectively shaking their heads ever since Gerberding’s appointment as CDC Director during the Bush II era ushered in political gamesmanship among the top CDC leadership. Up until then, it had been a meritocracy of sorts among top scientists.

Post-Gerberding, Obama’s pick came from outside CDC, as have subsequent ones. That’s left those most ambitious and narcissistic among the top scientists at CDC to scramble for power (Directorship) [using methods] within a dysfunctional system other than merit – passive-aggression, political obsequiousness and cronyism. For this reason, I don’t see CDC as entirely blameless in this current state of affairs. While the overwhelming majority there are incredibly gifted people, there are several at the top more interested in their own careers than the security of the nation … a familiar theme these days." 

I would also remind you that the above is only one person's strong opinion and so you can't take everything said as gospel, however it is an informed opinion. 

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