From the CDC to a Family: Organizational Culture Change is Hard, But Often Necessary


This major medical organization is making an effort towards changing their culture. Here’s why more of us need to emulate these actions.


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“People won’t wake up after Labor Day and think, ‘Everything is different.’” - Rochelle Walensky, MD

On Wednesday, August 31st, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the new bivalent COVID-19 booster shots. In 2 days, my wife and I will receive them. I hope you can too, and that the appointments pour in, but I doubt it. It seems like the country as a whole has been operating this past summer with some denial, as if the pandemic is over. It is not. More than half of Americans eligible for boosters have not received even one. There are still hundreds of deaths a day, long-term “brain fog” with difficult-to-diagnose mood changes, and the uncertainty of falling back in the fall.

Just 2 weeks before the FDA authorization, and just after celebrating its 75th anniversary, director Dr Walensky announced that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) needed culture change. In comparison to earlier times in the pandemic, she wants the agency to move faster in public health crises, and emphasized easier collaborations and communication internally and externally.

On being questioned in the most recent TIME magazine, she said1:

“I don’t think that moving boxes around on an organizational chart alone will fix the problem. What we’re talking about is a culture change. Reorganization is hard, but I think this is even harder than that.”

How refreshing to hear from a leader who admits mistakes, does not scapegoat others, and makes plans to move ahead.

Perhaps other medical organizations and leaders can do the same. Clearly, with the epidemic of physician burnout continuing at the same pace for about a decade now, culture change that engages clinicians and removes obstacles to their healing abilities is even more necessary.

Just like people, organizations cannot just assume they are doing the right things. That includes large organizations like the CDC and smaller ones, like families, who themselves may need family therapy to make a culture change. It includes whether businesses should force employees to return to offices after Labor Day, and with that comes the possibility of getting a COVID infection.

Soul searching and accountability, just like Dr Walensky apparently has done, is the emotional and mental labor that needs to be emulated. In her desire for collaboration, perhaps the American Psychiatric Association can work more closely with the CDC to better address one of the biggest problems in medicine today: misinformation. Collaboration means we care about one another.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.


1. Park A. Dr. Rochelle Walensky knows the CDC made ‘dramatic mistakes.’ Now she’s trying to fix them. TIME. August 23, 2022. Accessed September 6, 2022.

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