Head of the CDC resigns

Cigarettes are shown in an ash try in this file

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resigned from her position on Wednesday.

When she was previously working for the Georgia Department of Public Health, Fitzgerald listed tobacco cessation as one of her public health priorities - despite then owning stocks in five major tobacco companies, including Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco.

Fitzgerald sold the tobacco shares October 26 and all of her stock holdings above $1,000 on November 21, more than four months after assuming leadership of the federal health agency.

That seems to be at odds with the CDC's mission to curb smoking, which is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. "Due to conflicts of interest presented by investments, our CDC director still has to recuse herself on some of the most important health issues we face".

HHS released a statement noting the resignation was accepted Wednesday morning.

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Her purchases include between $1,001 and $15,000 of Japan Tobacco, between $1,001 and $15,000 each in Merck & Co., Bayer and Humana, and between $15,001 and $50,000 in U.S. Food Holding Co.

She toured the CDC's Tobacco Laboratory on August 9, one day after purchasing shares in the Japanese company. She later sold stock in that company, but was unable to sell other stocks that presented conflicts.

When Price appointed her to lead the CDC in July 2017, he praised her 'deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership - all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America's health 24/7'. "These additional purchases did not change the scope of Dr. Fitzgerald's recusal obligations, and Dr. Fitzgerald has since also divested of these newly acquired potentially conflicting publicly traded stock holdings". Patty Murray said Fitzgerald's ability to do her job was hindered by "ongoing conflicts of interest".

Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC principal deputy director with 30 years at the agency, will take over until a new director is named, the CDC said in a statement.

The day after Fitzgerald made her investment with Japan Tobacco, Fitzgerald's calendars depict she toured the CDC's Tobacco to learn of the ill effects caused by harmful chemicals in tobacco. She replaced HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price in July when he resigned following a scandal regarding the use of his private planes.

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