Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Robert Redfield has steered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the most tumultuous year in its 74-year existence. It hasn’t been easy.
While Redfield’s training as an infectious disease specialist focused on HIV and AIDS gave him additional insight into the challenges presented by COVID-19, his agency has had to work overtime to inform an occasionally skeptical public about all things related to the virus. However, amid the crisis, he has spoken candidly about the deficiencies of the nation’s public-health apparatus.
“Years of underinvestment in public health have led to a system that has been sorely tested by the current pandemic,” Redfield said during a September hearing before Congress. “COVID-19 is the most significant public-health challenge to face our nation in more than a century. Now is the time to build not only the public-health core capability that our nation needs, but that the people of our nation deserve.”
Observers note that the CDC’s work may have been hamstrung by the Trump administration, especially after daily COVID-19 case data briefly vanished from the CDC’s website in July.
The agency caused a problem of its own when two controversial COVID-19 guidances were posted — and then withdrawn — within days.
While the agency stumbled during the early days of the pandemic — to be fair, the scientific and research communities hadn’t yet weighed in on the importance of masking and other preventive measures — Redfield never wavered in his belief that the CDC has always based its decisions on science. “We’re not an opinion organization,” he said in a September speech to CDC employees. “We’re a science-based, data-driven organization. That’s why CDC has the credibility around the world that it has.”
Redfield also serves as the administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.