Deputy Director for Program and Science/Chief Medical Officer
Debra Houry, MD, MPH, is the Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Director for Program and Science at CDC. In this role, she is responsible for establishing, strengthening, and maintaining collaboration and coordination across CDC’s national centers including infectious diseases, chronic disease, environmental health, injury prevention, and public health infrastructure. She also provides overall direction to, and coordination of, the scientific and medical programs. Dr. Houry is also the Designated Federal Officer for the Advisory Committee to the CDC Director, working directly with private and public sector constituents to prioritize CDC’s activities and address key areas including data modernization and health disparities. As a board-certified emergency physician, she has seen firsthand the impact of infectious diseases, chronic health conditions, and injuries on individuals, families, and communities and strives to address and prevent challenges with implementable, evidence-based practices.
Prior to this role, Dr. Houry served for nearly two years (2021-2023) as CDC’s acting Principal Deputy Director, overseeing improvements to lab quality, updating global health strategy and governance, and elevating cross-cutting initiatives across the agency such as social determinants and mental health. She was also a key leader in the CDC Moving Forward reorganization process for the agency. From 2014-2021, Dr. Houry served as the Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC. Under her leadership, the budget increased from $150 to $714 million with expansion of multiple programs. Other notable achievements under her leadership included releasing the CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Chronic Pain, acquiring the management of the Drug Free Communities program encompassing 700 local coalitions, expanding the National Violent Death Reporting System from 18 to 50 states, and standing up new funding lines in adverse childhood experiences, suicide, drowning, and firearm violence prevention.
She previously served as vice chair and tenured associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and as associate professor in the Rollins School of Public Health. Dr. Houry also served as an attending physician at Grady Memorial Hospital in the emergency department and in the medication assisted treatment clinic for opioid use disorder.
Dr. Houry has participated on numerous public health boards and committees and is an alum of Leadership Atlanta and the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program. She has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, and has received numerous awards throughout her career including the APHA Jay Drotman award, US Department of Health and Human Services Group Award for Service to America, and the AMA Award for Outstanding Government Service.
Dr. Houry received her MD and MPH degrees from Tulane University and completed her residency training in emergency medicine at Denver Health Medical Center.