Education: B.A. magna cum laude (chemistry/biology) Case Western Reserve University, 1977; M.D., Case Western Reserve University, 1981; master's of public health., University of California, Berkeley 1990
First job: Intern in medicine, University of California, San Francisco
Career moves: Clinical instructor, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 1984-1985; assistant professor in-residence, Department of Medicine (infectious diseases) UC, San Francisco, 1988-1995; affiliate, California Primate Research Center, UC, Davis, 1989-1993; hospital epidemiologist, director, Epidemiology and Prevention Interventions Center, San Francisco General Hospital, 1990-1998 Assistant professor in-residence, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, UC, San Francisco, 1991-1995; associate professor, Departments of Medicine (infectious diseases) and Epidemiology & Biostatistics, UC, San Francisco, 1995-present; director, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998-present Associate clinical professor, Department of Medicine (infectious diseases), Emory University, 2000-present; acting deputy director, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001-2002; acting principal deputy director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002; director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, administrator, Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry, 2002-present
Boards: Editorial Board, Journal of Bioterrorism and Biosecurity; associate editor, American Journal of Medicine
What is the greatest business lesson you have learned?
The greatest business lesson to me is also the greatest lesson in life, and that is it is imperative to stay in learning mode. I'm an infectious disease doctor, and if you know anything about bacteria, you know bacteria start out growing very slowly, and all of a sudden they explode into what we would call logarithmic growth where they are multiplying exponentially until they start to plateau and level off.
My personal challenge is to always stay in that logarithmic growth place and to keep (this) organization constantly in growth phase. You're alive, you're proactive, you're learning, your work force is excited, your pipelines of workers are open and new ideas can take hold and bring the agency further along in the shortest period of time. I think that's a lesson I've learned personally, but also one with direct relevance to my role as a leader of CDC.
What is the biggest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?
The most challenging business issue for me personally really has been initiating the implementation of the strategic transformation at CDC. And I say that because it's a governmental agency. Change is always challenging for large organizations. This agency hasn't really had a strategic planning process of this scope for more than 20 years, and it hasn't undergone any significant reorganization in that amount of time. It's not an environment that has learned the importance of this kind of investment. So, rationalizing why we are initiating a new strategy and helping people recognize the value of learning within an organization and growing, even though we are already a very fine organization, is something I find personally very challenging but also extremely rewarding, because I do feel we have generated a critical mass of very excited, energetic people who are the future of CDC and also the future of public health in our nation. The challenges can be overcome, but it's important to be strategic as we go about trying to address them.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
The person I admire most in business is probably Oz Nelson, the former CEO of UPS. I say that because, obviously, he was an extremely successful CEO, but he also recognized the value of putting customers first and really looking to the outside of the business to get information to help the organization learn as it goes forward to conquer challenges.
But I also admire him because since he left his role as CEO, he has continued to utilize his leadership skills to support health. He's been the head of the CDC Foundation board. He's contributed his leadership to the United Way. He's a community servant. And he does everything that he commits to with the same degree of excellence and passion that he brought to bear in his role at UPS. I think he is an extraordinary man in that regard.