WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Medical Association (AMA) presented Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the AMA Award for Outstanding Government Service.
A practicing emergency physician for more than 20 years, Dr. Houry joined the CDC in 2014, serving as director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) from 2014 to 2021. During Dr. Houry’s tenure, NCIPC’s budget increased from $150 million to $714 million, with much of its growth focused on the opioid overdose epidemic. Because of her expertise and dedication to the issue, the number of jurisdictions that are live with RxCheck, a prescription drug monitoring program, has increased from eight in 2019 to 50 in 2022. RxCheck has helped states improve workflow, ease access for controlled substance prescribers, and supported safer prescribing. Most recently, Dr. Houry served for nearly two years (2021-2023) as CDC’s acting Principal Deputy Director, overseeing improvements to lab quality, updating global health strategy and governance, and elevating cross-cutting initiatives across the agency such as social determinants and mental health.
Dr. Houry’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic was key to quickly allowing flexibilities in CDC’s Overdose Data to Action program to allow jurisdictions to modify efforts and better respond to changing circumstances of communities. Under her leadership, CDC also worked with federal partners to revise guidance to allow federal funds for purchasing fentanyl test strips in an effort to curb the increase in drug overdose deaths.
“An accessible leader, mentor to many, and champion on public health, Dr. Houry has led the way on some of the most challenging issues facing her field and saved lives in the process,” said AMA Board Chair Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, M.D. “A physician first, she maintains a strong connection to patients and physicians, alike, enabling her to lead the way on issues like firearm violence and the overdose epidemic, as well as burnout. It is an honor to present Dr. Debra Houry with the AMA Award for Outstanding Government Service.”
Dr. Houry previously served as vice chair and associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and as associate professor at the Rollins School of Public Health. Dr. Houry also served as an attending physician at Emory University Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital and as the director of Emory Center for Injury Control.
Dr. Houry has participated on numerous public health boards and committees. She has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. Houry received her MD and MPH degrees from Tulane University and completed her residency training in emergency medicine at Denver Health Medical Center.
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