She is the leading lady during the White House COVID-19 press conferences and many know her for the iconic scarves she wears every day. Deborah L. Birx, M.D. has been one of the powerful voices during this time of panic and I am here to give you the story behind the Birx.

Born in Pennsylvania, Deborah Birx was born to Donald, a mathematician and electrical engineer, and Adele Birx, a nursing instructor. She attended Houghton College where she got her BS in Chemistry before she graduated from Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center. In 1980, Birx became an active duty reserve officer for the United States Army. Then, in 1985, Birx started her career at the Department of Defense where she was a military-trained clinician in immunology with a focus on HIV/AIDS. In 1985, she began her time as the Assistant Chief of the Hospital Immunology Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where she stayed until 1989. 

From 1996 until 2005, Dr. Birx served as the Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. During her years within the Department of Defense, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Birx rose to the rank of Colonel. By then, Dr. Birx had brought together the U.S. military for further collaboration on HIV/AIDS. From 2005-2014, Dr. Birx was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS. 

While she was working, Dr. Birx or Colonel Birx, was awarded:

  • U.S. Department of Defense Legion of Merit Award (1989,1991)

  • Federal Executive Board, Outstanding Manager

  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Society for Laboratory Medicine

  • William C. Watson, Jr. Medal of Excellence

When interviewed by NPR, Jen Kates, a senior vice president and director of global health and HIV Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation said this: 

“She is seen as somebody who is totally driven by wanting to end the [HIV] epidemic as quickly as possible,” “She’s driven by data and results and getting the job done. I think the one thing probably a lot of people who know her well would say about her is she is driven to get the job done.”

In 2014, President Obama nominated Dr. Birx to become Ambassador at Large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator where she oversaw the implementation of U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Then on February 27, 2020, Vice President Pence appointed Dr. Birx to the position of White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator as a part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. 

We have seen her on our TV’s and now you know more about her background. Her politics don’t matter, but her intelligence does. We are grateful for Dr. Birx and her continued leadership through this tough time.

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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