Coronavirus

Biden picks Mass. General’s infectious diseases chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky to lead CDC

Walensky will be tasked with rebuilding a critical health agency that’s been widely critiqued amid a global pandemic.

. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

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President-elect Joe Biden has picked Massachusetts General Hospital infectious diseases chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky to oversee the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as its new director, the president-elect’s transition team announced Monday.

Walensky will replace Dr. Robert Redfield, who assumed the role in March 2018, at a critical moment as the coronavirus surges across the nation and the government readies to distribute shipments of a vaccine that may finally offer relief after months of an unrelenting pandemic. 

She’ll also be tasked with rebuilding a health agency that’s been widely critiqued and downplayed by the Trump administration. 

Walensky is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a practicing infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, according to an online biography. Also serving as chair of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council, Walensky’s bio details her nationally-recognized work promoting HIV screening in the U.S. and seeking effective strategies for HIV care in South Africa. 

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Biden has chosen one of the most respected infectious disease docs in the world,” Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, posted on Twitter Sunday afternoon in celebration of Walensky’s appointment. “She has a long history working on HIV and has, in the past year, become a tour de force in addressing COVID. She’ll take the helm of CDC at perhaps its most critical moment.”

The choice to name Walensky the CDC’s new director comes after a number of other doctors with ties to Massachusetts were tapped by Biden’s transition team to join his COVID-19 advisory board.

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Biden announced Walensky and multiple other important health officials Monday, including former U.S. surgeon general and Brigham and Women’s hospitalist Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was also selected to serve on Biden’s advisory board.

“This team of world-class medical experts and public servants will be ready on day one to mobilize every resource of the federal government to expand testing and masking, oversee the safe, equitable, and free distribution of treatments and vaccines, re-open schools and businesses safely, lower prescription drug and other health costs and expand affordable health care to all Americans, and rally the country and restore the belief that there is nothing beyond America’s capacity if we do it together,” Biden said in the announcement.

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