THE top US public health official resigned today due to financial conflicts of interest, a day after US media reported that she bought tobacco stocks while heading the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Politico first reported the shares purchase after obtaining documents through a FOIA request that showed they were just one of about a dozen investments made soon after Fitzgerald took over the agency's directorship. Such an investment is an obvious conflict with the mission of the CDC.
Murray said she hoped the newly confirmed HHS Secretary Alex Azar would encourage the president to choose a new director "who is truly prepared to focus on families and communities".
"Like all presidential personnel, Dr. Fitzgerald's financial holdings were reviewed by the HHS Ethics Office, and she was instructed to divest of certain holdings that may pose a conflict of interest", an HHS spokesperson said.
The purchase of the tobacco shares especially raised concerns, because one of the goals of the CDC is to prevent smoking.
This isn't unusual for Fitzgerald, apparently, as she owned stock in five other tobacco companies before taking the position at the CDC. She also purchased stock pharmaceutical companies in Merck & Co. and Bayer, health insurance company Humana worth between $1,001 and $15,000.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal speaking to former Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald at the Capitol building in Atlanta in 2014.
Earlier in her career, Fitzgerald served as a health care policy adviser to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Sen.
HHS did not comment on the nature of her trading these stocks. According to another Politico report citing an internal CDC email shared with the news organization, Schuchat will again resume the acting director role, effective immediately.