March 21 (UPI) -- AIDS researcher Robert Redfield was selected to head the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.
Redfield, 66, is an infectious disease specialist with a focus on HIV/AIDS and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He also served as a member of the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 2005 to 2009 and served in the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research for 20 years.
"Dr. Redfield has dedicated his entire life to promoting public health and providing compassionate care to his patients, and we are proud to welcome him as director of the world's premier epidemiological agency," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
Azar said Redfield's scientific and clinical background is "peerless" and praised him for making "pioneering contributions to advance our understanding of HIV/AIDS" during his two decades with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Redfield is set to replace former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, who resigned in January following a conflict of interest after reports that she bought shares in tobacco, drug and food companies while serving as director in 2017.
Anne Schuchat served as acting director in the months following Fitzgerald's resignation.
"Furthermore, all of us at HHS are grateful to Dr. Anne Schuchat for her service as Acting Director at CDC, especially during this year's severe flu season. We look forward to CDC continuing its important work on the opioid epidemic and America's many other pressing public health challenges," Azar said
The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a statement urging the administration to reconsider Redfield's appointment citing a lack of experience running a public health agency, a history of scientific misconduct and support of HIV/AIDS policies opposed by most public health experts.
"What one wants in a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a scientist of impeccable scientific integrity. What one would get in Robert Redfield is a sloppy scientist with a long history of scientific misconduct and an extreme religious agenda," said president and director of the center Peter Lurie.