Colleagues Praise MGH Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Biden's Choice for CDC Chief

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Dr. Rochelle Walensky of Massachusetts General Hospital to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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President-elect Joe Biden has chosen a Massachusetts General Hospital doctor to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a move praised by many of her colleagues.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky began her career at the height of the AIDS crisis. She rose to the director of Massachusetts General Hospital's infectious disease division, and she will be in charge of the CDC in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Dr. Walensky trained here in infectious diseases," said Dr. Paul Sax, director of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "I've known her for years. She's very good at communicating about what that data means. She's also quite collaborative, and I just couldn't think of a better choice."

Data collection is key to fighting COVID-19, and that is right in Walensky's wheelhouse. Her experience with HIV and AIDS helped prepare her to deal with the pandemic, leading Mass. General's response.

"I think no one is better positioned than Rochelle to use her experience and her knowledge of the HIV epidemic and her on-the-ground experience of COVID-19 to move the CDC forward and into, or back to, the place where we all have trust and faith in that institution," said Dr. Robbie Goldstein, an infectious disease specialist at MGH.

"I can't tell you how many of my colleagues in infectious diseases who are looking at this choice and saying, 'I can once again believe in the CDC and know that data are going to drive the decisions happening down in Atlanta,'" Goldstein said.

But Atlanta's and the nation's gain is Boston's loss.

"This is the most bittersweet moment here at Mass. General, because losing Rochelle to the CDC, while it is such an honor, is so hard for our division, because we care so much about her," Goldstein said. "We're sorry to see her go."

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