Opioid addiction and HIV/AIDS expert Robert R. Redfield, M.D., expected to be named head of CDC

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The Trump administration is reportedly vetting Robert Redfield, M.D., to head the CDC following Brenda Fitzgerald's resignation. (CDC.gov)

Robert R. Redfield, M.D., appears to be the leading candidate to head the CDC. He would bring expertise in HIV/AIDS and in the treatment of opioid and heroin addiction treatment.

Anonymous sources within the Trump administration told Politico and the New York Times late last week that Redfield is the front-runner. Currently an endowed professor in translational medicine and the co-founder and associate director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Redfield also advised the National Institutes of Health and served on former President George W. Bush’s HIV/AIDS advisory council.

According to the Times, Redfield’s work with heroin addicts has made him an advocate for medical-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, an approach favored by Department of Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Maryland’s former lieutenant governor and a registered Democrat, praised Redfield’s experience with infectious diseases and opioid addiction.

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“I think he’s a superb candidate, first rate,” she said.

Brenda Fitzgerald, the administration’s previous head of the CDC, resigned under pressure due to a string of conflicts of interest that forced her recusal from critical areas of concern for the agency, including cancer and opioids. The discovery of her purchase of shares of a tobacco company after her appointment likely led to her resignation after only six months on the job.

RELATED: CDC director’s resignation shows new HHS chief Alex Azar won’t tolerate unethical behavior on his watch

Fitzgerald herself was appointed by former HHS Secretary Tom Price, who also ended up resigning amid controversy surrounding his use of private planes for government travel. Anne Schuchat, M.D., has served as acting director of the CDC since Fitzgerald’s exit.

The vetting process currently underway is likely to be thorough to avoid any similar revelations. The administration may make its formal announcement as soon as March 20, according to the Times.