Dr. Julie Gerberding, first woman director of CDC, to be commencement speaker for Class of 2020

| Senior News Editor
Courtesy of The Source

Dr. Gerberding will visit campus to deliver her address, May. 30

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the first woman to be director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will deliver the commencement address for the Class of 2020’s May 30 in-person graduation.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to let this class—who frankly got the raw end of the deal last year—know that Dr. Gerberding, a world-renowned infectious disease and vaccine expert, will deliver their much anticipated in-person Commencement address,” Chancellor Andrew Martin told The Source.

Gerberding’s expertise received national attention during her time as CDC director from 2002-2009. Among around 40 other public health crises, Gerberding was tasked with responding to the bioterrorism threats that arose post-9/11, combating the SARS outbreak and dealing with health related concerns in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The University expects 1,330 graduates from the Class of 2020 to return for this spring’s graduation ceremonies after last year’s in-person graduation festivities were canceled due to the pandemic.

The University will hold three ceremonies for the Class of 2020 on Francis Olympic Field with up to 500 graduates attending each event and two guests allowed for each graduate. Gerberding will deliver her address in person at each of the three ceremonies, and her speeches will be livestreamed for graduates who do not come to campus.

Among other accolades, Gerberding was named to Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women in the World” from 2005-2008 and Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2004.

Gerberding is currently the executive vice president and chief patient officer at Merck & Co. Inc., the fifth largest pharmaceutical firm in the world. Gerberding has also served as a faculty member at the University of California San Francisco, in addition to directing the Prevention Epicenter at the CDC.

“As our 2020 graduates have learned, resiliency is an important characteristic to possess, and Dr. Gerberding has mastered it through her key leadership during many urgent crises,” Martin said. “I trust our graduates will be inspired by Dr. Gerberding, an example of a strong, resilient leader.”

More recently, Gerberding has acted as an expert voice during the pandemic, using her knowledge as an epidemiologist to explain key elements of the pandemic to the general public.

Gerberding had previously delivered the 2008 Commencement speech at the Washington University School of Medicine while she was the acting CDC director.

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