Her official bio on the federal Department of Health and Human Services website doesn’t mention it, but Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., the newly appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, apparently endorsed a controversial, unproven medical practice when she was in private practice.
Forbes has reported that Fitzgerald, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, also was a fellow in anti-aging medicine, according to a 2013 article on the Georgia Department of Public Health, where she served as commissioner for seven years. And in an update to its original story, Forbes notes that U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., mentions it in a statement praising her appointment to the CDC.
Although the CDC wouldn’t comment on the story, the publication also uncovered more about Fitzgerald’s past using The Wayback Machine to find information from her gynecology practice’s website in 2010. Her credentials on that site listed board certification in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.
When her appointment was announced last week, many in the industry were pleased that unlike some in the Trump administration, she has publicly supported vaccinations. The White House has drawn the ire of public health officials when it dismissed vaccine champion Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., as Surgeon General, and vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy announced Trump had asked him to lead a panel on vaccine safety.
But her support for anti-aging medicine is raising some eyebrows. David Goldstein, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the New York University School of Medicine, told Forbes that the anti-aging treatments are “snake oil” and "plays on people's worst fears about their mortality."
Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, a nonprofit in the District of Columbia, told Forbes she was disappointed that the CDC pick embraced “unproven and anti-scientific claims of the so-called anti-aging movement.”
Another piece in Forbes also notes that others have raised concerns that Fitzgerald partnered with Coca-Cola to run a program against child obesity when she was Georgia’s public health commissioner. Coke gave $1 million for the program to increase physical activity in schools, but didn’t promote the need to reduce soda consumption due to its high sugar content, which is a driver of obesity.
But in his announcement last week about her appointment, HHS Secretary Tom Price said Fitzgerald has “a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership—all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America’s health 24/7.”
Her official bio on the HHS notes that she has served on the board and as president of the Georgia OB-GYN Society and she worked as a healthcare policy adviser with House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Paul Coverdell. She has also served as a senior fellow and chairman of the board for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
Fitzgerald holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from Georgia State University and a Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine. She completed postgraduate training at the Emory-Grady Hospitals in Atlanta and held an assistant clinical professorship at Emory Medical Center. As a major in the U.S. Air Force, Fitzgerald served at the Wurtsmith Air Force Strategic Air Command Base in Michigan and at Andrews Air Force Base in the District of Columbia.