NEW YORK (AP) - Georgia's health commissioner was named Friday to lead the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government's top public health agency.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald is an OB-GYN and has been head of the Georgia Department of Public Health since 2011. She succeeds Dr. Tom Frieden, who resigned as CDC director in January at the end of the Obama administration.
Fitzgerald was appointed by Dr. Tom Price, who was a congressman from Georgia before he was named the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by President Donald Trump.
"Having known Dr. Fitzgerald for many years, I know that she has a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership - all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America's health 24/7," Price said in a statement.
Fitzgerald, 70, has had strong ties to the Republican Party. She was a GOP candidate for Congress twice in the 1990s. She was also a health care policy adviser to Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, and the late Sen. Paul Coverdell.
Fitzgerald is respected in the public health community, and her choice drew praise from Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
"From her work as a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist to her recent service as the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, Dr. Fitzgerald is more than prepared to face the health challenges of our time, including climate change, Zika, Ebola, and our growing burden of chronic disease," Benjamin said in a statement.
The CDC investigates disease outbreaks, researches the cause and frequency of health problems and promotes prevention efforts. It is the only federal agency headquartered outside of Washington, D.C. It has nearly 12,000 employees and 10,000 contractors worldwide.
Her first day at CDC was Friday. A CDC spokeswoman said Fitzgerald would not be available for interviews.