John J. Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, FACOEM, is a physician and innovative public health practitioner with over 30 years of tested and proven leadership in military, private, non-profit, and governmental sectors. His primary career emphasis has been in local, state, and federal population health leadership roles.
Most recently (2019-2021) he served as the director of the CDC Center for Preparedness and Response, with a team of over 600 professionals and a budget of over $800 million. Dr. Dreyzehner was responsible for all programs that comprised CDC’s public health preparedness and response portfolio: emergency operations, state and local readiness, and oversight of select agent and toxin laboratories in the United States, serving at the outset and height of the COVID-19 pandemic. A highly respected national leader-practitioner in the field of population health, Dr. Dreyzehner has had a career-long emphasis on preparedness and response issues, including serving as the ASTHO Preparedness Policy Committee Chair, National Homeland Security Consortium Tri-Chair, and the NEMA-ASTHO-GHSAC Policy Committee Co-Chair.
From 2011-2019 Dr. Dreyzehner served in the Tennessee Cabinet as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health leading a team of over 3,500 individuals and a budget of over $600 million. During his tenure he explicitly linked health and prosperity, focused on primary prevention interventions, and took his team on a performance excellence journey using the Baldrige framework. His agency received numerous awards for this work, including three consecutive national Vision and outstanding county health department awards along with national recognition for his leadership of continuous improvement and performance excellence in Tennessee.
In addition to numerous legislative and policy initiatives, including official but unpopular warnings regarding e-cigarettes and Cannabis, national leadership in work to prevent substance use disorders, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and other adverse childhood experiences, Dr. Dreyzehner led Tennessee’s preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks, including the national fungal meningitis outbreak of 2012, Ebola, Zika, and outbreaks of hepatitis A and C. He also led the public health preparedness and response activities to natural disasters, including severe winter storms, tornados, flooding, and a major rural-to-urban wildfire in Gatlinburg and the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. His agency was the lead responder for local disasters and his response teams provided direct aid to other states.
Dr. Dreyzehner has testified before the U.S. Congress as an expert on preparedness and response issues. He has also been a national thought leader in substance use issues, leading numerous policy, legislative, scientific and community efforts to stem the use disorder epidemic, including serving on the Rx Summit’s Scientific Advisory Board from 2012 onward and working on the Culture of Health advisory board with the National Academy of Medicine.
Prior to becoming Commissioner in Tennessee, Dr. Dreyzehner served as the District Director for the Cumberland Plateau Health District encompassing multiple counties in the Appalachian region of Virginia from 2002-2011 where he focused on regional collaboration to improve health and preparedness, founding several multi-state councils and non-profit coalitions focused on regional health improvement, preparedness, and the emerging public health crisis of substance use disorders.
His journey into the public health repercussions of the substance use epidemic began in Appalachia when he helped identify and describe the opioid epidemic in public health terms, among the first in the nation to describe the opioid crisis ravaging the region in the early 2000s as a public health epidemic. His community-focused approach to that response led him to become a DATA-waived physician and to practice addiction medicine in a local non-profit community clinic. In addition to his collaborative and policy focused regional preparedness work, he has led numerous local and regional public health responses, including the influenza pandemic of 2009 in the Tri-cities region of Tennessee and Virginia.
Dr. Dreyzehner began his health career as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force, practicing and directing primary care, outpatient services, public health and aeromedical programs while stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. His roles included Chief of Flight Medicine for the First Fighter Wing and Chief, Aeromedical assessments for Air Combat Command and service in Desert Storm with the 94th Fighter Squadron. He has logged over three hundred hours in military aircraft, primarily in his assigned F-15D Eagle fighter jet.
Following his military service, he was residency trained and board certified in Occupational Medicine and practiced clinically in that field for five years before turning full time to population health. He is a Fellow of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and is married to his medical school sweetheart, a child psychiatrist, with whom he has adult children and grandchildren.