Obama names Besser as CDC head

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President Barack Obama and his administration have appointed Richard Besser, MD, an infectious disease and disaster preparedness expert, as acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Besser, who headed the CDC's public health emergency preparedness and response functions, succeeds Julie Gerberding, MD, who stepped down with the change in administration after six years of leading the agency.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that it was unclear whether Besser would be Gerberding's permanent successor. An email to CDC employees said that Besser would serve as acting director until a permanent director is named and assumes the role.

Gerberding was originally to be replaced temporarily by William Gimson III, the agency's chief operating officer, until a permanent successor was named. 

Besser, a pediatrician by training, he served in the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service, tracking food-borne diseases, followed by several years working on infectious disease issues, the WSJ reported. He also spearheaded a national campaign to prevent overuse of antibiotics.