Scope of the Position:

The Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) operates the nation's health protection agency, working to protect Americans from foreign and domestic health and safety threats. Operating with a budget of $7.2 billion, the Director of the CDC has made it a priority to protect Americans from infectious diseases; prevent the leading causes of disease, disability, and death; ensure global disease protection; keep Americans safe from environmental and work-related hazards; protect Americans from natural and bioterrorism threats; and monitor health and laboratory excellence. Because epidemics do not recognize national borders, the Director works constantly with the international community to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats regardless of their origins.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

Looking forward, the CDC aims to increase its investments to attack the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, increase global public health capacity and security, promote health and wellness in the Native American community to reduce deaths due to prescription drug overdose, and continue to improve disease fighting tools. In an attempt to address the growing concern of prescription drug abuse, the CDC is developing guidelines to help primary care physicians improve the way that opioids are viewed and prescribed to treat chronic pain. Additionally, the CDC is also helping the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services to establish a new Medicaid initiative to undertake improvements in delivering care to beneficiaries with substance use disorders.

During the 2014 Ebola epidemic that occurred in parts of West Africa, the CDC struggled with inadequate training and supplies as well as with transportation and communication networks. As an internal public health entity, the CDC must respond to sudden outbreaks and medical states of emergency, protecting Americans from health, safety, and security threats abroad and in the United States.1

Improving the Hiring Process

In order to achieve its critical mission of protecting American citizens from health, safety, and security threats, the CDC requires a highly qualified workforce. Recently, the CDC contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to review the performance of its Human Resources Office (HRO), and it later entered into a contract with NAPA to help reengineer its hiring process.2 While much has been accomplished since the conclusion of this study, the CDC still has work to do to improve the agility of its hiring process to meet its critical mission.


       1Mission, Role, and Pledge;; April 2014.
       2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Transforming Recruitment and Hiring Processes;; November 2015.

CDC Directors:

The majority of CDC Directors have a background in medical research, with an emphasis in infectious diseases, which qualifies them well for a position that primarily involves preventing the outbreak of disease. Additionally, it should be noted that almost all CDC Directors have medical degrees.

Current Incumbent:

Tom Frieden (2009-present): Prior to his appointment as Director of the CDC, Frieden served as Commissioner of the New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Department. He also served as the Director of the Bureau of Tuberculosis Control and Assistant Commissioner for the Department. Frieden began his career with the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service, where he worked as an Officer at the New York Health Department. He received his MD and MPH from Columbia University.

Previous Directors:

Julie L. Gerberding (2002-2008): Gerberding currently serves as Executive Vice President of Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy, and Population Health with Merck. Prior to her tenure as the CDC Director, she worked as a Division Director for Healthcare Quality Promotion for the Agency. Gerberding previously worked as Acting Deputy Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases. She was also a faculty member with the University of California at San Francisco, where she directed the Prevention Epicenter. Gerberding earned her BA in chemistry and biology and her MD from Case Western Reserve University.

Jeffrey P. Koplan (1998-2002): Koplan currently serves as the Vice President for Global Health at Emory University. He is also a Principal Investigator of the Global Health Institute-China Tobacco Partnership. From 1994 to 1998, Koplan served as President of Prudential Center for Health Care Research. Koplan began his career with the CDC in the 1970s when he joined the Epidemic Intelligence Service. He also led the US-PRC Public Health-Health Services Research Team in 1979. He holds an MD and a master's in public health.

David Satcher (1993-1998): Satcher currently serves as Founding Director and Senior Advisor for The Satcher Health Leadership Institute. He previously served as President of Meharry Medical College for over a decade. Satcher also worked as a professor at Morehouse School of Medicine. He was a faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine and Public Health and King-Drew Medical Center, where he directed the Sickle Cell Research Center for a number of years. Satcher holds an MD and a PhD in cell biology.

William L. Roper (1990-1993): Roper currently serves as the Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Roper previously worked as an Administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration and has served as a senior staff member in the White House. Roper earned his MD and MPH from the University of Alabama.

Additional Resources: