Congratulations, DR. Walensky
To the Editor:
On behalf of the entire Mass General family and with enormous pride and admiration, we congratulate Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, chief of Infectious Diseases at Mass General, on her appointment as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). President-Elect Joseph Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris yesterday announced the members of the leadership team who will be shaping, overseeing, improving and ensuring the health, well-being and safety of our nation. Dr. Walensky will be an integral part of this national health executive team, whose first and most pressing challenge will be directing and implementing the United States’ response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Steve and Deborah Gorlin MGH Research Scholar 2015-2020, Dr. Walensky is an inspired choice for this top public health role. She is an accomplished clinician, scientist and educator who will bring creativity and boldness, wisdom and compassion to her new role. Committed to equity and fairness, Dr. Walensky has been a relentless advocate for ensuring that the highest quality healthcare is accessible and available to underserved communities, a priority that has defined her leadership in the Mass General Division of Infectious Diseases.
For the past 10 months, Dr. Walensky has been leading and supporting staff in her division as they battle against COVID-19. She has played a critical role advising Mass General and the Mass General Brigham system in all aspects of understanding, controlling, treating and preventing the virus. At the state level, she has served on Gov. Baker’s COVID-19 Advisory Board, shaping key decisions and actions. She also has helped both the medical community and the public sort through changing guidelines and conflicting information, co-authoring more than a dozen COVID-related papers, organizing infectious disease leaders across Boston to publish a series of important op-ed pieces, and reaching millions as a medical analyst on CNN.
Dr. Walensky is internationally recognized for her work in the field of HIV/AIDS. She has pushed U.S. and global policy toward routine HIV screening and promoted the idea of HIV treatment as prevention. As the first investigator to assess the survival benefits of AIDS treatment, Dr. Walensky, through her fierce advocacy, helped increase investment in research and treatment. She is a past chair of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council.
When she takes the reins of the CDC this January, Dr. Walensky will lead a federal agency responsible for protecting and guiding the nation’s public health and safety. Headquartered in Atlanta, the CDC is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, with more than 10,000 employees and a budget of approximately $12 billion. The CDC coordinates, supports and funds a vast range of programs including immunization, HIV/AIDS, emerging infectious diseases, environmental health, disease prevention, injury prevention, and public health preparedness and response.
Dr. Walensky holds an undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis, a medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and a master’s in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health. She trained in internal medicine at Hopkins and in infectious diseases in the MGH/BWH combined fellowship program. She and her husband, Loren Walensky, MD, PhD, a physician-scientist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital, are the parents of three sons.
In Dr. Walensky, the new administration has chosen a fearless, brilliant and compassionate ally who will give her all to protect and advance the health of our nation — just as she has done for patients, colleagues and the community at Mass General.
Peter L. Slavin, MD
Mass General President
Timothy G. Ferris, MD
Mass General Physicians Organization CEO
Katrina Armstrong, MD
Chief, Department of Medicine