In the midst of a scandal, the director of the CDC steps down
Brenda Fitzgerald, the director for America’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has just been forced to resign. The cause cited is a blatant conflict of interest. The director bought shares in Big Tobacco at the same time that the CDC is supposed to be fighting tobacco addiction.
This news was reported earlier this week by Politico. The relationships between major tobacco manufacturers and Brenda Fitzgerald are very embarrassing for the CDC, indeed. The American government agency, the primary organization concerned with protecting public health, has been profoundly discredited by the news.
Also a doctor, Brenda Fitzgerald was known for her anti-tobacco campaigning. She was active in the anti-tobacco domain as director of the public health department in Georgia. She was chosen as CDC director in July 2017, and in subsequent months, she purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of shares in various tobacco companies. Most of her investments were in Japan Tobacco, but Philip Morris International, Reynolds American, and Imperial Brands were also part of her portfolio.
A troubling conflict of interest for the CDC
For the American senator Patty Murray, the link between Big Tobacco and a prominent health official is unacceptable. The CDC will have to overcome the scandal and the inevitable affect it will have on public opinion. One of the CDC’s major goals is to combat the effects of tobacco addiction, which is the leading cause of lung cancer.
Doctor Tom Frieden, Brenda Fitzgerald’s predecessor at the CDC, pleaded for leniency. He evoked the possibility that the stock portfolio manager may have acquired the shares without the knowledge of Fitzgerald. She got rid of the stocks by October 2017, but the damage had already been done.
With close ties to the Republican Party, Brenda Fitzgerald has been temporarily replaced by Anne Schuchat, an important figure at the CDC.
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