Coronavirus response coordinator, White House Coronavirus Task Force
Science has been a cornerstone of Dr. Deborah Birx’s life since she ran astronomy and biology experiments with her brothers in the shed behind their Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, home growing up.
Birx began her career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where she focused heavily on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. Birx also spent 14 years as an active duty reserve officer in the U.S. Army and then 14 years as an active duty regular, achieving the rank of colonel.
She worked at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researching the HIV/AIDS epidemic before being nominated to be the ambassador at large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator as part of President Barack Obama’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program in 2014.
But her 40 years of knowledge were put to the test in 2020 when she was appointed to the Office of the Vice President as the coronavirus response coordinator to aid with the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite Vice President Mike Pence calling Birx his “right arm” on the task force, Birx’s main challenge was interpreting ever-changing data on the virus without publicly contradicting President Donald Trump’s frequently unscientific comments.
Birx came under fire for downplaying equipment shortfalls and insisting that COVID-19 infections would fade quickly. Critics also disagreed with her July 2020 decision to bypass the CDC when reporting coronavirus patient information.
She led the creation of the spring reopening plans, but warned people about maintaining social distancing and opposed some activities such as professional haircuts.