Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told Fox News on Thursday that while he supports a planned “reset,” it will likely take “years” to eradicate the academic culture that has tarnished the CDC.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced in a statement Wednesday that they are planning to restructure the organization following national criticism over its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Redfield, who served as CDC director from 2018 until last year, applauded the “self-recognition” of his successor during an interview Thursday on “The Story,” adding that he hopes the restructuring will bring the CDC closer to its original mission as a public health response agency.
“It’s an important step that she’s taking,” Redfield said. “The challenges over the 75 years that CDC has been in existence, is it sort of dwarfed from its original mission, which was public health response and it really sort of moved in to — looks similar to an academic institution.”
Resetting the culture of the agency will be tough, Redfield said, calling for a renewed emphasis on utilizing available data in real-time, instead of waiting “until they have all of the data wrapped up in a bow” to launch a public health response.
“It’s going to take some time to change that culture because many of the individuals that are obviously dedicated public health individuals have really learned to operate and be incentivized for their performance based on academic models,” he said. “We need to get back to creating this agency so it’s a public health response agency.”
Redfield also called on Congress to work with the agency throughout the transition, noting that in the past, the CDC has not “been supported to the degree that it needs to [be].”
“One of the limitations, when I got there was very clear, is that the agency really hasn’t been supported to the degree that it needs to, particularly from the core capabilities of human workforce,” he said. “Real-time data, data modernization, laboratory resilience, global health footprint. I’m hopeful that Congress will work with CDC over the years ahead to help this transition so that they get back to their primary mission of being a public health response agency, not an academic institution.”
As for the agency’s current handling of the rise in monkeypox infections in the U.S., Redfield said, “There’s no doubt that the agency, unfortunately, was reactive, not proactive.” When host Gillian Turner asked whether he thinks the agency still has a chance to hammer down the proper public response, Redfield said plainly, “That ship has sailed.”