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Maine's US senators recommend Nirav Shah to lead US CDC

The U.S. CDC's current director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, is stepping down in June. Dr. Shah is currently second in command as the agency's deputy director.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Senators Angus King and Susan Collins said they are recommending former Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah to lead the U.S. CDC when current director Dr. Rochelle Walensky leaves at the end of June.

Shah became principal deputy director of the U.S. CDC in March 2023. Walensky announced on May 5 that she would resign, citing the waning COVID-19 pandemic as an appropriate time to transition.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew appointed Shah to his role as head of the Maine CDC in June of 2019, with the mission of rebuilding the agency and the state’s public health infrastructure.

King told NEWS CENTER Maine on Tuesday that he is recommending Dr. Shah to President Joe Biden's administration to be the U.S. CDC's next leader. The senator's letter of recommendation will be sent to the White House and Office of Personnel Management, according to King's office.

A spokesperson for Susan Collins told NEWS CENTER Maine she has made the same recommendation.

"He’s a star and he knows the issues," King told NEWS CENTER Maine. "He did a fabulous job in Maine. I think he would be a great leader of the CDC and I’m making that view known to the people down the street."

Congresswoman Pingree also recommended Shah for U.S. CDC leadership. 

"While it is ultimately President Biden’s decision to appoint a new CDC Director, Dr. Shah would be an excellent choice for the job. The nation would be lucky to have him at the helm."

Ultimately, Biden will appoint the U.S. CDC's new leader, in consultation with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. King's office said it expects guidance from Becerra about the role this position will take in the future direction of the CDC.

In a statement on Walensky's resignation, Biden wrote:

"Dr. Walensky has saved lives with her steadfast and unwavering focus on the health of every American. As Director of the CDC, she led a complex organization on the frontlines of a once-in-a-generation pandemic with honesty and integrity. She marshalled our finest scientists and public health experts to turn the tide on the urgent crises we’ve faced.

Dr. Walensky leaves CDC a stronger institution, better positioned to confront health threats and protect Americans.  We have all benefited from her service and dedication to public health, and I wish her the best in her next chapter."

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