Always have a goal and know where you are headed, Julie Gerberding, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) students October 27, 2011. She shared leadership tips at the Division of Policy Translation and Leadership Development’s lecture series, “Decision-making: Voices from the Field.”
Whether managing a public health crisis or an organization, setting goals is key to getting things done. “I haven’t spent a day in my life since age 4 without a goal. I knew I wanted to be a physician every day,” Gerberding said.
Raised in a small South Dakota town, Gerberding achieved her career goal and became a physician specializing in infectious diseases. In 2002 she was appointed the first female CDC director. As head of the agency, she was responsible for coordinating emergency response initiatives for anthrax bioterrorism, SARS, avian influenza, natural disasters, and other public health crises. She left the CDC in 2009 and last year became president of Merck’s vaccine division.