In the first year of his administration, Donald Trump has repeatedly filled important scientific positions with candidates who seem to be either unqualified for the roles or diametrically opposed to the very purpose of those roles. Scott Pruitt was chosen to lead the Environmental Protection Agency after having repeatedly sued it. Rick Perry became Secretary of Energy, heading a department that he formerly wanted to eliminate and that he couldn’t remember the name of. Sam Clovis, a now-withdrawn nominee for chief scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture, had no scientific background. Brenda Fitzgerald seemed a reasonable choice to direct the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but was forced to resign after Politico reported that she had bought shares in a tobacco company shortly after taking up her post.
Given this parade of foxes in henhouses, it should have been a moment of joyous relief when Robert Redfield was confirmed as the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday. A leading virologist, Redfield has spent more than 30 years researching HIV and other infectious diseases. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps for 20 years and later cofounded the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he now acts as associate director. He has overseen a clinical program that treats more than 5,000 patients in the Baltimore-Washington area, and has experience treating people in sub-Saharan Africa. His supporters speak of him as a kind and compassionate doctor, who is devoted to his patients.