Questions Raised About Trump’s New CDC Boss

–Fitzgerald championed Coke-backed obesity program and practiced ‘anti-aging medicine’

Serious questions are being raised about Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, the Georgia doctor who Trump is appointing to be the new head of the CDC. Fitzgerald is an ob/gyn with long involvement in Republican politics in her state. She currently serves as the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

When Fitzgerald’s name was first announced some observers breathed a sigh of relief because she has been a public supporter of childhood vaccinations. Some anti-vaccination groups, who had hoped for support from the Trump administration, expressed opposition to the appointment.

But now two news reports have brought to light different but equally troubling problems relating to her activities both in public service and in her earlier private practice.

Things Go Better With Coke

In the first news report, Lee Fang of The Intercept wrote that, in her role as Commissioner, Fitzgerald championed a partnership with Coca-Cola to address the problem of childhood obesity.

“In a state that has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, Fitzgerald … launched SHAPE, a statewide effort to address childhood obesity through ‘physical activity before class, physical activity during class, and more structured recess’.” The chairman and CEO of Coke helped promote the program and pledged $1 million to support it. Another Coke executive served on a board “overseeing the state anti-obesity strategy.”

“Coca-Cola was so fond of Fitzgerald’s approach to obesity issues that an opinion column authored by Fitzgerald is featured prominently on Coca-Cola’s website,” wrote Fang. The SHAPE program fell in line with other Coke-sponsored programs in that it emphasized increasing exercise for weight loss but not reducing consumption of sugared beverages.

Beverage companies including Coke have been fierce opponents of taxes on sugared beverages and have tried to shift the blame for the obesity epidemic away from sugar and toward inactivity. In 2015 The New York Times reported that Coke gave more than $118 million to medical groups, researchers, and fitness programs.

Anti-Aging Medicine and Low-T

In the second news report, Forbes contributor Rita Rubin uncovered previously unreported information about Fitzgerald’s private practice. Utilizing an internet archive of Fitzgerald’s practice’s website in 2010, Rubin showed that Fitzgerald offered her patients dubious and controversial treatments outside the mainstream of science-based medicine.

In her private practice Fitzgerald moved well outside the traditional sphere of an ob/gyn. She “treated men as well as women,” Rubin reported. “That’s because besides being board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, she is a fellow in ‘anti-aging medicine’.” But the American Board of Medical Specialties “doesn’t recognize the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), which promotes the use of ‘intravenous nutritional therapy’, ‘bioidentical hormone replacement therapy’ (BHRT) and ‘pellet therapy’, in which tiny pellets that contain hormones are placed under the skin,” Rubin wrote.

It’s uncertain whether Fitzgerald actually prescribed such treatments, as the website language was nonspecific and Rubin apparently did not speak with Fitzgerald or her previous patients.

But David Goldstein, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU, told Rubin that anti-aging treatments are “snake oil.”

“The public needs someone who supports public health recommendations that are based on science,” Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, told Rubin, “not someone who tries to scare her patients by talking about ‘the hormone-depleted state of menopause’ and recommending unproven and potentially dangerous bio-identical hormones.”

The Forbes story didn’t focus on it but the website also suggested that Fitzgerald may have been an adherent of “low-T” replacement therapy. Here is what the website said:

Q. Can you treat my husband?

A. Absolutely, the reason I am now treating men is that my Gynecologic patients requested that I see their husbands. I will be happy to see men for nutritional concerns since these are the same for men and women. I have taken additional training in male hormones so that I may treat male hormone deficiencies as well as female deficiencies. I do not want to miss a prostrate [sic] cancer so I require that a male have a traditional urological exam before I give testosterone replacement. I will, of course, check and follow PSAs.

The pharmaceutical industry spent years promoting broader use of testosterone as a “lifestyle” drug in men, despite an absence of evidence for either safety or efficacy and despite the fact that it is approved only for men with pathological hypogonadism.


  1. dearieme says

    Coke is a Georgia company, isn’t it?

    “outside the mainstream”: the bastard!

    “It’s uncertain whether Fitzgerald actually prescribed such treatments”: then why not, oh Forbes, wait until you’ve found some evidence that she did?

  2. JDPatten says

    Why am I not surprised at yet another wrong-headed appointment? It characterizes the administration.

  3. “In a state that has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, Fitzgerald . . .”

    Well that right there should disqualify her

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