The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an important role within this agency.

This high-level position is responsible for managing the organization’s day-to-day operations and ensuring a safe and healthy society. As the highest-ranking official within the CDC, the head of the CDC plays a key role in advising both the President of the United States and Congress on public health matters.

Meet the Current Head of CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky has been the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since 2021. She was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in New Jersey, where she attended high school and college. Walensky received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware and went on to earn a medical degree at Harvard Medical School and a Master of Science in Health Policy at Harvard’s School of Government. Most recently, she served as the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and was a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Walensky brings a strong background in public health to her role as the head of the CDC. Before taking on this position, her research focused on the prevention and treatment of HIV, with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ populations and those from low-income communities. She also served on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, the FDA’s Advisory Committee for Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, and more.

Important Roles and Responsibilities 

The head of the CDC is responsible for advising the President as well as Congress and the public on healthcare and public health treatments. This includes recommending policy changes to ensure the safety and well-being of citizens and implementing preventive measures to handle major health problems.

The head of the CDC also has the potential to affect international public health policy. Working with international partners, the head of the CDC has the potential to reduce and better prepare for pandemics and other public health emergencies. They also work to share knowledge, resources and best practices about public health systems across countries.

This position is an important part of the team and works with high-level officials to ensure the CDC is delivering on its important mission and that the agency works to solve some of the world’s most pressing health issues.

Key Challenges 

As the head of the CDC, Dr. Walensky is faced with some unique challenges. One of her primary goals as the head of the CDC is to improve the health and safety of the nation and world at large, while successfully navigates a difficult political landscape. The spread of misinformation, existing lack of resources in some parts of the country, and political unrest can all get in the way of the CDC’s mission. Additionally, the basic infrastructure of public health systems and processes can vary widely between states and countries.

Another challenge for Walensky is ensuring the CDC has the resources and authority to meet the most urgent public health needs of the nation and the entire world. This means advocating for increased funding, additional staff, and the approval of necessary policy changes.

Changing the Way We View Public Health

Dr. Walensky is taking steps to reframe our approach to public health. She is leading a comprehensive effort to classify health as our nation’s number one priority, rather than something that is lesser than other issues.

This shift in philosophy emphasizes that preventing illnesses, either through vaccinations or new technology, is more cost-effective than trying to treat them. It also places an importance on prevention, rather than any one specific disease. This philosophy is helping to inform the way Walensky is approaching the head of the CDC role.

For example, Walensky is focused on reducing health disparities, increasing access to quality care, and raising awareness of public health issues. She is also committed to greater data collection, putting an emphasis on preventive care, and applying science-based strategies to help keep populations healthy.

As the leader of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky holds a high-profile position with a great deal of responsibility. From advocating for change to addressing global public health issues, the head of the CDC plays a critical role. As Dr. Walensky works to tackle the challenges that come with this position and shift the way we view public health, we look forward to seeing the positive changes resulting from her efforts.