by Kathy Nellis
Published: March 22, 2007
CDC celebrated the ceremonial swearing in of Assistant Surgeon General Anne Schuchat, as a Rear Admiral in the United States Public Health Service. She joins an elite group—there are only about 50 flag officers in the Corps today.
One of them, Mitch Cohen, MD (RADM USPHS), and director of Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases (CCID), served as Master of Ceremony for the event. "This ceremony is one of the most significant in the Public Health Service, through which we promote an officer into the senior leadership ranks of the Commissioned Corps," said Cohen.
Also present at the ceremony was Acting Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu (RADM USPHS) who spoke highly of Schuchat. "During the course of her tenure at CDC, she has joined colleagues across the agency for numerous emergency response activities, including the 2001 anthrax bioterrorism response and the 2003 SARS outbreak, where she headed the Beijing City epidemiology team for the China office of the World Health Organization."
Recognized within the Corps and among her global colleagues, Schuchat has published more than 150 articles, chapters and reviews. In December 2005, she assumed her present role and responsibilities as the director of the National Immunization Program.
Schuchat graduated with highest honors from Swarthmore College and with honors from Dartmouth Medical School. She completed residency training in internal medicine at New York's Manhattan VA Hospital. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Public Health Service's Meritorious Service Medal and Physician Research Officer of the Year.
She joined CDC in 1988 as an EIS Officer with the Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch at the National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
She was then assigned to the Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch in NCID, where she collaborated with laboratory scientists, CDC and state-based epidemiologists on a large study of sporadic listeriosis aimed to identify dietary risk factors for the disease.
The study included testing whether the strain of Listeria monocytogenes that caused the patients' illnesses was also present in foods from their homes, using molecular fingerprinting techniques.
"Before this study, there was no regulation in the food industry to eliminate or restrict the presence of this pathogen in processed meats," recounted Dr. Schuchat. "After our study, the USDA instituted a 'zero tolerance' policy, which prohibited the sale of ready-to-eat processed meats with any L. monocytogenes."
After her EIS assignment, Schuchat stayed on as a medical epidemiologist at NCID, spending her career within the Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases.
In 1998, she became the chief of the Respiratory Diseases Branch. Globally, she has worked in West Africa on meningitis vaccine studies, in South Africa on surveillance and prevention projects, and in China on SARS emergency response and epidemiologic studies.
CDC Director Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, praised Schuchat for her "personal sense of dedication to public health and her caring and compassion" throughout her 19 year career at CDC.