August 16, 2022

Women’s History Month: Food Safety Pioneer Julie Gerberding First Female To Lead CDC

March is Women’s History month.  As the month draws to a close, Food Poisoning Bulletin is taking a look at the careers of  some female food safety pioneers. Pioneer is kind of a strange word to describe a living woman in her mid 50s,  but Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H.  is just that. In 2002, she became the first female director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and administrator for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

gerberdingAn infectious disease expert who worked on the CDC’s  counter terrorism initiative, Gerberding played a major role in the CDC’s response to the anthrax attack of 2001.  Five people were killed and 17 others were injured when letters containing deadly anthrax spores were mailed to members of Congress.

“The events of last fall made clear to all of us that this cannot be a time of business-as-usual,” Dr. Gerberding said in a statement at the time. “In a time of rapid change and growing responsibilities, CDC will ensure excellence in public health science, excellence in service to our public health partners and a sound organizational system to ensure that we fulfill our mission.”

Before joining the CDC in 1998 as director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Gerberding was head of the Prevention Epicenter, a service, teaching, and research program  focused on preventing infections in patients and their healthcare providers at the University of California, San Francisco.

A native of South Dakota, Gerberding earned her B.A. degree in chemistry and biology and M.D. degree at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.  She earned her Masters of Public Health (MPH)  at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1990. She left the CDC in 2009, when President Obama took office and  is now president of the vaccine division of MERCK.


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