President-elect Joe Biden on Monday selected Dr. Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when his administration takes office next month.
Walensky teaches at Harvard Medical School and is an infectious disease physician at both the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, according to her biography.
Her nomination comes as the nation is in the midst of a spike in coronavirus infections, with the U.S. outpacing all other nations with nearly 15 million cases and more than 282,000 virus-related deaths, according to a John Hopkins University tracker.
“I’m honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at the CDC. We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts,” Walensky said in a tweet on Monday.
She added that her career in medicine started during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and that she has dedicated her life to combating infectious diseases.
The post does not require a Senate confirmation.
A colleague of Walensky’s at Massachusetts General Hospital told Boston member station WBUR on Monday he was experiencing “sheer excitement” from the Biden pick.
“This is some of the best news I’ve heard in a very, very long time and certainly shines a bright light on the COVID pandemic knowing that we’re going to have help on the way,” Dr. Robbie Goldstein said.
Walensky will assume the role currently being filled by Robert Redfield, who has headed the CDC since 2018.
Biden is expected to formally announce Walensky, along with his other top health officials, later this week.
Among health officials expected to be formally named are California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who will be secretary of Health and Human Services and Jeff Zeints, who will be the White House coordinator of the coronavirus response.
The incoming administration also said it would nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general. Murthy has been a top coronavirus adviser to Biden, and was surgeon general during the Obama administration.
Last week Biden said he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, to join his administration as chief medical adviser. Biden also said when he takes office next month, he’ll urge Americans wear facial coverings for his administration’s first 100 days.