Gerberding was named the first female director of the CDC in 2002 at age 46.
In announcing her appointment, then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said of her, “Dr. Gerberding knows public health, she knows infectious diseases, and she knows bioterrorism preparedness. She brings the right mix of professional experience and leadership skills to ensure the CDC continues to meet the nation’s public health needs.”
During her tenure as director, Gerberding led more than 40 emergency responses against crises such as anthrax, SARS, bird flu, foodborne outbreaks and natural disasters.
At the time of her appointment to lead the agency, she had been serving as part of a four-person CDC interim leadership team, where her duties included leading the CDC’s bioterrorism-related efforts. She was lauded for her response to the anthrax attacks in 2001.
Gerberding, who joined the CDC in 1998, also had served as the CDC’s acting deputy director for science and public health and as acting deputy director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases.
After stepping down as CDC director in 2009, she joined Merck & Co. Inc. in 2010 as president of vaccines and was instrumental in increasing access to the company’s vaccines to people around the world.
Today, Gerberding is executive vice president and chief patient officer at Merck, the world’s fifth-largest pharmaceutical firm. She leads all aspects of strategic communications, global public policy, population health and patient engagement.
Gerberding is deeply committed to achieving sustainable global health impact and tackling some of the most challenging health priorities of our time. This includes addressing critical issues such as affordable access to important therapies, advocating for health policies that promote and sustain innovation of new medicines and vaccines, and improving maternal health through the Merck for Mothers program — a public-private partnership helping to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality.
She is passionate about serving patients, helping to address disparities and improve outcomes. She engages with patients and patient advocacy groups as a champion to bring their collective insights and voices into the drug development and delivery process.
Gerberding previously was a tenured faculty member in infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. She continues as an adjunct associate clinical professor of medicine at UC San Francisco.
During her years in San Francisco, Gerberding was on the front lines helping patients in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. She directed the Prevention Epicenter, a multidisciplinary research, training and clinical service program that focused on preventing infections in patients and their health-care providers.
She is a passionate advocate for gender parity and the advancement of women in life sciences. As the executive sponsor of the Merck Women’s Network, she mentors dozens of women both within and outside the company.
A native of Estelline, S.D., she earned both her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in chemistry and biology and her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Gerberding completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at UC San Francisco, where she also served as chief medical resident at San Francisco General Hospital, as well as her fellowship in clinical pharmacology and infectious diseases.
She earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley, where, in 2020, she was recognized as one of “Sixteen women who changed public health.”
She has received more than 50 awards and honors and was named to Forbes magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women in the World” from 2005-08 and to Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2004.