Pres. Obama late yesterday named bioterrorism and infectious disease expert Richard Besser interim director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Besser, 49, a pediatrician and longtime CDC researcher, will fill the slot—at least temporarily—vacated by Julie Gerberding, who headed the agency for six years during the Bush administration.
Besser, most recently director of the CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, is an expert on biological and chemical weapons, and on preparing for and responding to public health emergencies. He studied food-borne illness in the agency's Epidemic Intelligence Service and led a nationwide campaign to prevent overuse of antibiotics, which as been blamed for a rise in drug-resistant infections.
Besser, who earned his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania and did his pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, has published scientific papers on topics related to biological and chemical weapons as well as on antibiotic resistance.