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Sonja Rasmussen, MD, MS

Acting Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response

Photo: Sonja Rasmussen, MD, MS Dr. Sonja Rasmussen is the Acting Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This office is responsible for all of CDC's public health preparedness and response activities and provides strategic direction, support, and coordination for these activities across CDC as well as with local, state, tribal, national, territorial, and international public health partners. PHPR carries out its mission by emphasizing accountability through performance, progress through public health science, and collaboration through partnerships.

In her previous positions as Deputy Director and Acting Director of CDC’s Influenza Coordination Unit, Dr. Rasmussen was actively involved in CDC’s efforts related to pandemic planning and response, including providing direction for pandemic preparedness focus areas (domestic epidemiology/surveillance/laboratory, international, vaccine planning and delivery, medical care and countermeasures, community and border protection measures, state and local support/coordination, at-risk and vulnerable populations, communications, and response readiness). She also coordinated CDC’s pandemic response activities with other HHS agencies, including Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, National Vaccine Program Office, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Rasmussen joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1998 and has since provided significant scientific expertise and leadership. She led CDC’s pandemic planning efforts for pregnant women prior to the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, including convening planning meetings of experts and public health partners focused on weighing the risks and benefits of treating pregnant women with antiviral medications and using pandemic influenza vaccine during pregnancy. Outcomes from this meeting guided CDC’s recommendations during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic related to pregnant women.

Dr. Rasmussen served as deputy incident manager when CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated for the 2013 H7N9 influenza outbreak response. In this role, she was responsible for situational awareness, establishing incident priorities, and briefing the CDC Director and key staff. When CDC’s EOC was activated following confirmation of the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the United States in May 2014, Dr. Rasmussen was again tapped to serve as deputy incident manager.

Dr. Rasmussen received her BS in Biology and Mathematics with magna cum laude honors from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, her MS degree in Medical Genetics from the University of Wisconsin, and her MD degree with honors from University of Florida. She completed her pediatrics residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and her fellowship in clinical genetics at Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Florida. She is board certified in pediatrics, clinical genetics, and genetic counseling and has authored or coauthored over 180 peer-reviewed papers.

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