Conservatives Fume Over 'Lost Mission' at Centers for Disease Control

By Michael L. Betsch | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - Conservatives Wednesday broke rank with the Bush administration over the choice of a new director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expressing doubt that Julie Gerberding possessed the traits needed to "straighten out an agency that is so far off course."

Gerberding, an infectious disease expert, played a major role in developing CDC's response to the mysterious anthrax attacks that targeted U.S. postal facilities last fall. She continues to lead the CDC's efforts to prepare for and counter terrorism.

Prior to Wednesday's appointment, Gerberding has been acting principal deputy director of CDC, and has served as part of the leadership team at the agency since former director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan resigned March 31. She has also served as acting deputy director of CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases.

"Dr. Gerberding knows public health, she knows infectious diseases, and she knows bioterrorism preparedness," said Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in an announcement Wednesday. "She brings the right mix of professional experience and leadership skills to ensure the CDC continues to meet the nation's public health needs."

Gerberding's appointment "looks encouraging," said Maureen F. O'Leary, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA). "From what I understand and what we know of her efforts in bioterrorism and HIV, we certainly are encouraged that she's a good choice."

The GLMA is a "specialty society" of the American Medical Association that advocates improved health care for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people, O'Leary said.

O'Leary said the GLMA would like to "make certain" Gerberding will follow some of the recommendations of the Healthy People 2010 Companion Document for LGBT Health, a comprehensive homosexual health manual "written by and for health care consumers, providers, researchers, educators, government agencies, schools, clinics, advocates, and health professionals in all settings."

The Healthy People document contains 18 pages of recommendations for schools to "protect LGBT youth from violence and harassment" and to provide "health education materials" to medical personnel that are "culturally specific to address the needs of transgender people and other sexual minorities."

But O'Leary said the GLMA still has "a lot of research" to do on Gerberding before the group can really get a grasp for how her appointment will affect the primarily homosexual medical association's 2,000-plus members.

Gerberding's appointment is not the key issue, said Michael Schwartz, vice president for government relations at Concerned Women for America. "The issue is the CDC, and that's what we've been trying to tell the administration."

According to Schwartz, the CDC has become "a menace to the public health."

"In the first place, they are fueling the HIV epidemic, not only by failing to take reasonable, ordinary public health measures against the epidemic," Schwartz said, "but by actually handing over enormous sums of money to organizations that promote the very behaviors that cause the spread of HIV infection."

And Schwartz noted that some of the programs that have received taxpayer-funded CDC grants have been termed "obscene" by the Inspector General of the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).

For example, the Washington Times reported that the listing of "youth" resources on a CDC website "includes a link to the Coalition for Positive Sexuality (CPS), a self-described 'guerrilla sex education' group."

"If you think you might be queer, relax!" the CPS site instructs visitors. "If you think you are queer, try to find a lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgender community center near you, where you can meet other queers your age."

The American Psychological Association's (APA) Education Directorate has implemented the Healthy Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Students Project with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Adolescent and School Health (CDC-DASH).

According to the APA website, the five year project "seeks to reduce the risks of HIV infection, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and address other salient health issues of LGB youth."

"The whole CDC, frankly, has been sort of a bottomless trough of money for every kind of radical left wing interest group," Schwartz said.

The CDC under Koplan's direction was essentially a "politicized agency that had lost its mission," Schwartz charged. Gerberding, the agency's new director, isn't responsible for the agency falling off course, Schwartz said. However, he added, Gerberding was a deputy director in Koplan's "regime."

"If you want to change the course of an agency like that, you don't promote the deputy director who was there and watched all this stuff go on," Schwartz said. "Nothing could be clearer from her record than the fact that she is not the kind of confrontational person who is willing to stand up against the left wing forces that control CDC. She will be putty in their hands."

Schwartz said he would not question Gerberding's leadership skills if she had been appointed to a "health agency." However, he said, "There is not the slightest trace in her background that she is the kind of person who is capable of getting control of the lunatics over at CDC and putting that agency back in the right direction."

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