Changing organizational culture is difficult, but often necessary

This great medical organization is working to change its culture. Here’s why more of us imitate these actions.


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

On Wednesday, August 31, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the new COVID-19 bivalent boosters. In 2 days my wife and I will receive them. I hope you do too, and that the appointments flow, but I doubt it. It seems the country as a whole operated last summer in denial, as if the pandemic was over. It’s not. More than half of Americans eligible for reminders haven’t even received one. There are still hundreds of deaths a day, a long-term “brain fog” with hard-to-diagnose mood swings, and the uncertainty of falling back in the fall.

Just 2 weeks before FDA clearance, and just after celebrating his 75th birthday, Director Dr. Walensky announced that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) needed a culture change. Compared to previous periods of the pandemic, she wants the agency to act more quickly in public health crises and has emphasized easier collaborations and communications internally and externally.

Asked in the latest TIME magazine, she said1:

“I don’t think moving boxes on a flow chart alone will solve the problem. What we are talking about is a culture change. Reorganization is hard, but I think it’s even harder than that.

How refreshing to hear a leader who admits mistakes, doesn’t scapegoat others, and makes plans to move forward.

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

Just like people, organizations cannot just assume they are doing the right things. This includes large organizations like the CDC and smaller ones like families, which themselves may need family therapy to change their culture. This includes whether companies have to force employees back into the office after Labor Day, and with that comes the possibility of contracting a COVID infection.

Introspection and accountability, just as Dr. Walensky apparently did, is the emotional and mental work that needs to be emulated. In its desire to collaborate, perhaps the American Psychiatric Association could work more closely with the CDC to better address one of the biggest problems in medicine today: misinformation. Collaboration means we care about each other.

Doctor Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specializes in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the unique 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 professional, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. for a better world. He sits on the editorial board of Psychiatric Times™.


1. Park A. Dr. Rochelle Walensky knows the CDC has made “dramatic mistakes.” Now she is trying to fix them. TIME. August 23, 2022. Accessed September 6, 2022.

Aubrey L. Morgan