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CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald Resigns

Amid alleged tobacco investments, Brenda Fitzgerald has resigned from her position as director of the CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, has resigned from her position amid reports that she purchased shares in a tobacco company while championing governmental efforts dedicated to anti-smoking.

“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director,” a statement issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reads.

Dr. Fitzgerald informed newly-appointed Secretary, Alex Azar “of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal,” according to the statement. After, “Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the Secretary accepted her resignation. The Secretary thanks Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald for her service and wishes her the best in all her endeavors.”

Documents obtained by Politico showed that the stock was acquired by Dr. Fitzgerald after her succession to the top position of the CDC in July 2017. This stock was just one of about a dozen investments made by Dr. Fitzgerald in that period.

The news source reported that tobacco stocks were not the only kinds of activities that Dr. Fitzgerald was partaking in that raised flags. Dr. Fitzgerald was also reportedly trading in drug and food companies, behavior that “broke with ethical norms for public health officials.”

According to Politico, the trading included purchases between $1001 and $15,000 of stock in Merck & Co., Bayer, and Humana, and between $15,000 and $50,000 in US Food Holding Co.

She reportedly owned stock in Japan Tobacco, and prior to becoming director of the CDC—while still serving as the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health—owned stock in Reynolds American, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International, and Altria Group Inc. Her ownership of these stocks was considered legal under Georgia's ethics laws.

Dr. Fitzgerald had made tobacco cessation a top priority even prior to working at the CDC. Several ethics experts and attorneys have lamented the situation, with one describing it as “tone deaf” to Politico.

Earlier this month, despite being at the helm for more than 7 months, Dr. Fitzgerald had been denied the ability to comment before Congress regarding the CDC's intentions for cancer detection and facets of the opioid crisis—pressing concerns for the US health care sector—due to financial conflicts of interests based on investments made by her husband in GW Ventures and Greenway Messenger.

A previous version of this article was posted on MDMagazine.com.