Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has announced that she will resign from her position on June 30. During her tenure, she oversaw the administration of more than 670 million vaccine doses and provided clinical guidance on vaccination, schools, and businesses. Dr. Walensky took on the role in January 2021 when public trust in the CDC was at an all-time low, with the daunting task of restoring its reputation.
In an emotional agency-wide meeting, Dr. Walensky expressed mixed emotions about her decision and stated that she had taken on the role with the goal of moving the CDC and public health into a much better and more trusted place. People on a conference call with her reported that she broke down in tears during the meeting. Her email to staff thanked them for their hard work and suggested that she believed she had made progress in improving the agency’s reputation.
It is currently unclear who will lead the agency after her departure. However, Dr. Walensky’s email to staff expressed gratitude for the work they had accomplished together to move the CDC forward. She noted that the agency had reorganized and oriented towards public health action, and fostered accountability, timeliness, and transparency in their work.
Dr. Walensky’s departure comes at a critical time as the CDC continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, although no longer as a national emergency, and faces scrutiny from the public and lawmakers. The agency has been under pressure to update their guidelines and recommendations as new variants of the virus emerge and the country faces the challenge of vaccinating those who are hesitant or hard to reach.
President Biden expressed his gratitude and admiration for Dr. Rochelle Walensky, shortly after she announced her resignation as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a statement, the President praised Dr. Walensky’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that she had “saved lives with her steadfast and unwavering focus on the health of every American.”
President Biden also noted that Dr. Walensky leaves the CDC a stronger institution, better positioned to confront health threats and protect Americans. He thanked her for her service and dedication to public health, saying that the country had benefited from her leadership.
He wrote, “Dr. Walensky has saved lives with her steadfast and unwavering focus on the health of every American. As Director of the CDC, she led a complex organization on the frontlines of a once-in-a-generation pandemic with honesty and integrity. She marshalled our finest scientists and public health experts to turn the tide on the urgent crises we’ve faced.
Dr. Walensky leaves CDC a stronger institution, better positioned to confront health threats and protect Americans. We have all benefited from her service and dedication to public health, and I wish her the best in her next chapter.”
Dr. Walensky’s departure from the CDC comes at a critical time as the agency continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and faces scrutiny from the public and lawmakers. Her successor will have big shoes to fill, but the President’s statement suggests that Dr. Walensky has left the CDC in good hands.
As the search begins for her successor, the public and government officials will be looking for a leader who can continue to build trust in the CDC and provide clear guidance during key health issues based on science, and not politics.