Already the second longest serving director in the 70-year history of the Centers for Disease and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden is to submit his resignation on Jan. 20 when President-elect Donald Trump assumes the presidency, a spokesman for the agency confirmed to Global Atlanta on Jan. 9.
Since assuming his post in 2009, Dr. Frieden has faced an array of domestic and foreign public health threats. Perhaps a leading indicator of how interconnected the world has become is that when a disease emerges in a remote, isolated village, it can be transported to a major city in another country in less than two days.
Dr. Frieden took the brunt of the criticism for a lack of established procedures nationwide to face such a crisis when a Liberian man died from Ebola in a Texas hospital. On the other hand, it took nine months of political wrangling for Congress to approve $1.1 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika, a delay that hurt the U.S.‘s effort to contain the virus.
Under his watch, the CDC also has faced a multitude of other infection disease threats including swine flu, influenza, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and fungal meningitis in addition to its regular health related activities.
In several recent interviews Dr. Frieden has called for Congress to include a Rapid Reserve Fund enabling the agency to act quickly in an emergency.
Despite the threat of foreign diseases, he has focused recently more on the opioid crisis in the U.S., although he says that there is “a 100 percent chance” of the emergence of another pathogen globally.
“Year after year since I’ve been at CDC, the drug overdose death toll in our nation has been the highest on record. In 2015, more than 52,000 Americans lost their lives from an overdose. More than 33,000 of these deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid,” he says in an opinion piece published by FoxNews and reprinted in his blog on the CDC’s website.
He notes that “First responders and community members are increasingly administering naloxone, a drug that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose in progress,” and recommends increasing access among first responders and expanding programs that train community members on naloxone to “save more lives.”
The CDC is headquartered in Atlanta, and has 10 additional locations in the U.S. According to its website, it employs more than 14,000 employees who work in nearly 170 occupations with field staff work in all 50 states and more than 50 countries.
Aside from infectious diseases, it deals with food borne pathogens, environmental health, occupation safety and health, health promotion and educational activities designed to improve the health of U.S. citizens. In addition, the CDC researches and provides information on non-infectious diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
In March, Dr. Frieden received the International Award of the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta. Click here for the Global Atlanta article.