CDC director resigns after stories of conflicts of interest

CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resigned Wednesday following stories that she bought shares in a tobacco company, among other financial dealings that presented a conflict of interest.

“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a extensive recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC director,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Matt Lloyd stated in a news release. “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald can not divest from them in a definitive time period.”

Fitzgerald, an obstetrician-gynecologist, was named to run the CDC in July.

On Tuesday, Politico reported on documents that showed several investments, including one in a tobacco company, that Fitzgerald made after she took over the agency’s leading job, National Public Radio reported on Wednesday. The CDC is a lead federal agency in preventing smoking and tobacco-related diseases. It is further the federal agency responsible for tracking and investigating foodborne illnesses.

Fitzgerald had come under fire on Capitol Hill for not divesting financial interests in other companies that present potential conflicts of interest, including drug maker Merck, health insurer Humana, and U.S. Food Holding Co.

The Politico report, relying on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, stated that one day after Fitzgerald bought stock in Japan Tobacco, she toured the CDC’s Tobacco Laboratory, that studies tobacco’s toxic effects, NPR reported. She sold the tobacco shares on Oct. 26, and all of her stock holdings above $1,000 by Nov. 21, well into her term as CDC director.

Fitzgerald previously served as commissioner of the Georgia Division of Public Health.

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