CDC head to depart

Rochelle Walensky, MD, is exiting her role as director of the CDC at the end of June. 

The agency announced her plans to transition out of the agency May 5, citing Dr. Walensky's comments in a letter to President Joe Biden. 

"The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency marks a tremendous transition for our country, for public health, and in my tenure as CDC director," she wrote to the president. "I took on this role, at your request, with the goal of leaving behind the dark days of the pandemic and moving CDC — and public health — forward into a much better and more trusted place." 

Dr. Walensky took the helm of the CDC in January 2021 and led through a period where the agency received persistent criticism for its antiquated systems and missteps related to the nation's COVID-19 response. In December, Dr. Walensky urged Congress to grant the agency more funding and authority to improve data reporting and accelerate its response to public health crises. 

At the start of this year, Dr. Walensky unveiled a comprehensive plan to overhaul the agency's structure. The plan came after a comprehensive review uncovered deep holes in the CDC's  emergency preparedness strategy. 

"We really have to demonstrate that we're action-oriented," Dr. Walensky told Bloomberg at the time. "I don't want to repeat old mistakes."

The plan, dubbed Moving Forward, is underway, the CDC said in its May 5 announcement. 

"Changes are under way on everything from expanding the number of staff who are ready to respond to a disease outbreak to the implementation of plain language trainings to the overhaul of CDC's website, so that it's easier for people to find the public health information they need," the announcement reads. 

"Rochelle Walensky has been an extraordinary leader and a terrific partner," Ashish Jha, MD,  the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said in a tweet. "She has done the critical work of launching major reforms to ensure we have an even more effective CDC."

Dr. Walensky also oversaw response efforts to the nation's mpox outbreak and the Ebola outbreak in Uganda during her tenure at the agency. Before joining the CDC, she was chief of the division of infectious diseases at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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