President Biden has chosen Dr. Paul Friedrich, a military combat surgeon and retired Air Force major general who helped lead the Pentagon’s Covid-19 response, to head a new office in the White House that Congress has established to prepare for and manage future biological threats.
The White House said it would announce the appointment on Friday and take effect Aug. 7. And then Dr. Fredericks would have to create the new office, Office of Epidemic Preparedness and Response Policy, though the administration christened it with a short Washington acronym: OPPR.
The appointment follows a lengthy search for a director that ended where it began — in the White House, where Dr. Fredericks recently joined the National Security Council staff as senior director for global health security and biodefense. Prior to that, he served as Joint Chiefs of Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon, providing medical advice to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His planned choice It was reported last week by The Washington Post.
Why it matters: Future health threats loom large.
The coronavirus pandemic is often described as the worst public health crisis in a century. But experts agree that, given current migration patterns and the way humans intersect with animal life, it won’t be a century—maybe not a decade—before the next pandemic arrives.
The era of Covid “Caesars” is over. The first White House coronavirus response coordinator, Jeffrey D. Zients, is now the White House chief of staff. The second coordinator, Dr. Ashish K. Jha, has returned to his position as dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Mr. Zients praised Dr. Fredericks for his work on the pandemic, saying he will “lead the charge to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Covid-19 has made it clear that a biological health threat respects no boundaries — including the boundaries that separate federal agencies. Dr. Friedrich’s appointment signals an enduring, coordinated effort to prepare for and respond to pandemics — an effort that will continue beyond a Biden administration and will be centered within the White House.
backgroundDr. Fredericks has served decades in the Air Force.
in February letterDr. Fredericks reflected on his 37-year career in the Air Force and shared a little about himself with us. His father served in the navy at the end of World War II, and his mother was a Hungarian freedom fighter whose parents were murdered by the Russians. His wife was an army doctor when they met.
He also spoke about the military’s role in combating COVID-19, an effort that has included helping develop and distribute vaccines and providing medical support to struggling hospitals. “The military health system became the trigger that stepped in to help our civilian partners as we collectively struggled to work through this pandemic,” he said.
What thenWork will focus on readiness.
Dr. Friedrich’s new position gives him the authority to oversee domestic biosecurity preparedness. He will need to work on developing next-generation vaccines, ensuring adequate supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile and stepping up surveillance to spot new biological threats. He will also have to work with Congress to secure funding for the preparedness effort.