May 5, 2023 – CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, will step down from her position at the end of June, 2 ½ years after assuming the role during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walensky, 54, was sworn in on the first day of President Joe Biden’s presidency in January 2021, making her the 19th director of the national agency that is charged with safeguarding the health of Americans and combating disease threats.
The news of her resignation comes on the same day that the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 international public health emergency is over, and just days before the United States’ own federal emergency declaration also concludes.
Walensky did not give a specific reason for her decision to step down. She wrote in an internal CDC email announcing the end of her tenure that “at this pivotal moment for our nation and public health, having worked together to accomplish so much over the last two-plus years, it is with mixed emotions that I will step down,” Politico reported.
Prior to taking the helm at the CDC, she worked as a Harvard Medical School professor and ran the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. She also had been active in HIV and AIDS public health efforts with the WHO and the United Nations.
Her tenure did not come without criticism for the agency, including by medical experts who lamented that the federal government’s messaging on COVID-19 safety protocols and vaccines were overly complex and poorly timed.
In a statement, President Biden called Walensky’s service life-saving. “As Director of the CDC, she led a complex organization on the frontlines of a once-in-a-generation pandemic with honesty and integrity,” President Biden said. “She marshalled our finest scientists and public health experts to turn the tide on the urgent crises we’ve faced.”