Julie Gerberding was a panelist on the Forum’s discussion about Breakthroughs in Disease Treatment.
In her six years as the first woman director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H. guided the nation’s leading health protection agency through an era of rapid growth, globalization and innovative transformation.
The AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s placed Gerberding on the front lines of HIV care at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), leading her to pioneer research in preventing occupational HIV transmission. She joined CDC in 1998 as director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion where she led patient safety programs and national efforts to combat infections and antimicrobial resistance in healthcare settings. It was her timely and commanding response to the anthrax bioterrorism events in 2001, however, that led to her appointment as CDC director in July 2002.
From then until January 2009, Gerberding oversaw a $10 billion budget that supported a workforce of 15,000 people in more than 45 countries during a dramatic expansion of CDC’s portfolio to encompass preparedness and response to bioterrorism, pandemics and other emerging global health threats. In addition, she led a strategic restructuring of CDC to develop new national scientific centers for research in health marketing, public health informatics and zoonotic diseases and implemented a $1.6 billion capital improvement program. Together with state and local public health and private sector partners, Gerberding helped launch the “Alliance to Make US Healthiest,” a grass roots social movement to expand health system reform efforts to emphasize health promotion and prevention.
After graduating magna cum laude in Chemistry and Biology and then earning her Doctor of Medicine degree at Case Western Reserve University, Gerberding completed her residency in Internal Medicine at UCSF. She served as chief medical resident before completing her fellowship in Clinical Pharmacology and Infectious Diseases there and then went on to obtain her Master of Public Health degree at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently an associate professor of Medicine at UCSF and a clinical professor of Medicine at Emory University and continues to provide care for patients at San Francisco General Hospital.
Gerberding’s accomplishments as a public health scientist, innovator and communicator have earned her numerous leadership awards and accolades. She is an elected member of both the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Public Administration. In 2005, TIME magazine named her as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” for her leadership in modernizing CDC in the face of unprecedented health threats like bioterrorism and SARS. Forbes magazine listed her among the “100 Most Powerful Women in the World” each year from 2005 to 2008, a testament to her leadership of CDC’s global expansion. Gerberding also received the “Surgeon General’s Medallion”, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Public Health Service, for actions of exceptional achievement for the cause of public health and medicine.