Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stepped down Wednesday amid reports she traded tobacco stocks shortly after taking over the agency.
A representative for newly sworn-in Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar confirmed the departure in a statement.
“This morning Secretary Azar accepted Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the representative said.
Fitzgerald, an ob-gyn doctor by trade, purchased tobacco company shares a month after taking over the CDC last July, Politico reported Tuesday.
The news sparked uproar, particularly because the CDC is tasked with trying to get people to quit smoking.
Fitzgerald, formerly the Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner, was already under fire for older stock holdings some lawmakers believed compromised her leadership at the center.
“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director,” the HHS spokesman said.
“Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period. After advising Secretary Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the Secretary accepted, her resignation. The Secretary thanks Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald for her service and wishes her the best in all her endeavors.”
Fitzgerald bought somewhere between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of Japan Tobacco stock last August, according to records reviewed by Politico.
She toured the health agency’s Tobacco Laboratory a day later, where the CDC examine the harms tobacco chemicals can do to the human body, the website noted.
Fitzgerald later sold off the tobacco stock on Oct. 26, Politico noted.