Col. Dr. Deborah Birx, Chief Medical and Science Advisor
Deborah L. Birx, MD is a world-renowned medical physician and expert on HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases and a diplomat who served as a special representative for global health diplomacy. Most recently, Birx served on the White House Coronavirus Task Force from Feb. 2020 to Jan. 2021. Her three-decade-long career has focused on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health. As the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator for presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, Birx oversaw the implementation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history, as well as all U.S. government engagement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Serving as the U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, she aligned the U.S. Government’s diplomacy with foreign assistance programs that address global health challenges and accelerate progress toward achieving an AIDS-free generation; ending preventable child and maternal deaths; and preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease threats.
In 1985, Birx began her career with the Department of Defense (DoD) as a military-trained clinician in immunology, focusing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. From 1985-1989 she served as an Assistant Chief of the Hospital Immunology Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Through her professionalism and leadership in the field, she served as the Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (USMHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research from 1996-2005. Birx helped lead one of the most influential HIV vaccine trials in history (known as RV 144, or the Thai trial), which provided the first supporting evidence of any vaccine’s potential effectiveness in preventing HIV infection. During this time, she also rose to the rank of Colonel, bringing together the Navy, Army, and Air Force in a new model of cooperation – increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. military’s HIV/AIDS efforts through inter-and intra-agency collaboration. Then known as Colonel Birx, she was awarded two prestigious U.S. Meritorious Service Medals and the Legion of Merit Award for her groundbreaking research, leadership and management skills during her tenure at DoD.
From 2005-2014, Birx served as the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Global HIV/AIDS (DGHA) in the CDC Center for Global Health. As DGHA Director, she utilized her leadership ability, superior technical skills, and passion to achieve tremendous health impact. She successfully led the implementation of CDC’s PEPFAR programs around the world and managed an annual budget of more than $1.5 billion. Birx was responsible for all of the agency’s global HIV/AIDS activities, including providing oversight to more than 400 staff at headquarters, over 1,500 staff in the field, and more than 45 country and regional offices in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Recognized for her distinguished and dedicated commitment to building local capacity and strengthening quality laboratory health services and systems in Africa, in 2011, Birx received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Society for Laboratory Medicine. In 2014, CDC honored her leadership in advancing the agency’s HIV/AIDS response with the highly prestigious William C. Watson, Jr. Medal of Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by the CDC.
Birx received her medical degree from the Hershey School of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University. She trained in internal medicine and basic and clinical immunology at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health. Birx is board certified in internal medicine, allergy and immunology, and diagnostic and clinical laboratory immunology. She has published over 220 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, authored nearly a dozen chapters in scientific publications, as well as developed and patented vaccines.