Person of the Week: Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., MPH, Director of CDC

Our Public Health Person of the Week series is designed to inspire & encourage students to pursue a career in the myriad sectors within global public health. Public health is far reaching and incredibly expansive, providing the platform in which to improve the lives of local & national communities worldwide. As Dr. Seuss said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose…” – ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!’-

Person of the Week for October 29, 2012

Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., MPH, is Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), roles that he was appointed to by President Obama in June 2009. Dr. Frieden is a renowned expert in the control of communicable and noncommunicable diseases around the U.S. and the world. He was the Commissioner of the New York City Health Department from 2002-09, managing a $1.7 billion budget and more than 6,000 staff.


From 1992-96, Dr. Frieden led a highly effective program in New York City to control an epidemic of tuberculosis. He helped to cut the number of cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis by 80%. He also worked in India to help with national efforts to control tuberculosis. The Indian program treated over 10 million patients and saved a million lives.

As Commissioner of the New York City Health Department, the number of smokers in the city dropped by 350,000. Teen smoking dropped in half, and New York City became the first U.S. city to remove trans-fats from restaurants. Frieden also led efforts to monitor the diabetes epidemic, and mandated that some restaurants post information on caloric contents of menu items.

Sponsored Content

Under his leadership the health department in New York also boosted colon cancer screenings, and cut racial and ethnic disparities in screening for colon cancer. The department also started the biggest community electronic health records project in the U.S. This initiative provided electronic healthcare records for doctors that cared for more than one million New York residents.

Dr. Frieden has provided pro bono aid to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in various initiatives in global health philanthropy, such as the effort called the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

He also introduced the Take Care New York program, which was the first comprehensive health policy for the city. The program focuses on 10 leading causes of preventable illness and death.


Dr. Frieden received his bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, and his M.D. and MPH from Columbia University. He completed his infectious disease training at Yale University. He speaks Spanish, and he has received many awards and honors, and has published over 200 scientific articles.

Dr. Frieden was chosen by Governing Magazine as Public Official of the Year in 2005, and NY1’s New Yorker of the Year in 2006.

He holds an honorary Doctor of Public Service from Tufts University.

What He Has Been Up To

CDC, under the leadership of Dr. Frieden, has helped to reduce teen drinking and driving significantly. Statistics show that this serious public health problem has decreased by 54% since 1991. This was shown in a Vital Signs study that was released recently by CDC.

“We are moving in the right direction. Rates of teen drinking and driving have been cut in half in 20 years,” said Frieden. . “But we must keep up the momentum — one in 10 high school teens, aged 16 and older, drinks and drives each month, endangering themselves and others.”

Where He Has Been Quoted Recently

“One of the key functions of the CDC is to find best practices, to identify what’s really working in one part of the coun­try, and to help other people learn from it and emulate it. That’s a key function of the national government. We’re seeing it take place in a very encouraging way. With H1N1, for example, we’re seeing re­ally successful school-based vaccination programs spreading from state to state.”

– Interview in Yale Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. VI, Issue 2

Sponsored Content

Tweet Alert

Dr. Frieden is quite active on Twitter. He frequently holds live Twitter chats using the hashtag #CDCchat with the general public, and also with people and students interested in public health as a career.

This is a great way to learn about what is going on in public health and the CDC, which public health career to choose, and to share your experiences in your public health career. Dr. Frieden is interested in hearing from all of you. On October 26, he hosted his most recent Twitter chat. Some tweets of note included:




To Learn More

To find out more about Dr. Frieden and his efforts to advance public health, please contact him through the CDC Website. You also may tweet him at @DrFriedenCDC.

Dr. Frieden, thank you for your outstanding work in public health!

Do you know someone in the global health community worthy of being nominated for our Person of the Week Series? Contact us now.

About Us: MPH Programs was created as a free resource for students interested in graduate public health, public administration, public policy and health administration programs. Our goal in creating this site was to attract students to these under-served yet highly rewarding fields. The goal was to highlight MPH programs around the globe including Online MPH degrees, CEPH Accredited degree programs, Masters in public health careers and more.

As seen on: