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Senior Advisor for Strategy and Programs



Role at CDC

Ms. Patterson oversees the health equity, policy, communications, and management and operations functions of the center. She leads the programmatic and partnership strategy for the center, working closely with the scientific functions to advance the center’s priorities and mission. The center is focused on building the foundational capabilities and workforce of the public health system. Ms. Patterson led similar functions in CDC’s former Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.

Previous experience

Prior to joining the former Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, Sara served as the director of CDC’s Program Performance and Evaluation Office, helping CDC programs and external partners achieve the greatest possible health impact by supporting programs with strategy, development of funding announcements, performance improvement, and program evaluation.

Ms. Patterson also served as Deputy Chief of Staff for CDC on an interim basis, where she provided strategic advice to the director and ensured proactive coordination of agency-wide priorities and policies in support of CDC’s mission.

Ms. Patterson served as the Associate Director for Policy at CDC’s Injury Center where she oversaw policy and partnership activities to increase the visibility of injury as a critical public health issue and to reduce the burden of injuries and violence. She was with the Injury Center from 2007 to 2018, having originally joined the organization as the Deputy Director of the Office of Policy and Partnerships. Her primary roles included overseeing congressional relations, managing cross cutting and strategic partnerships, and leading health policy efforts for the center.

Ms. Patterson began her career at CDC in 2002 as a Presidential Management Fellow in the Financial Management Office, focusing on congressional relations, budget and policy development, and performance management.

Prior to her arrival at CDC, she worked at Kids Public Education and Policy Project within the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago, a state-level organization specializing in legislative and policy issues related to children ages 0-3. Sara also worked for the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, providing trauma counseling and case management services for refugees in Amman, Jordan.


Ms. Patterson earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago with a concentration in public policy and management. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University in psychology and religion.

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