March 12, 2009 / Uncategorized

A Stellar Choice for FDA

Dr. Margaret Hamburg

Dr. Margaret Hamburg

Good news! Dr. Margaret Hamburg has been nominated to be the head of the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Hamburg was one of the youngest people ever elected to the Institute of Medicine (an affiliate of the National Academy of Sciences) and is a highly regarded expert in community health and bio-defense, including preparedness for nuclear, biological, and chemical threats. She is a leading advocate for changes in the nation’s public health policies and infrastructure, from local health departments to the highest levels of government.

Dr. Hamburg has had a stellar career. Highlights include:

  • As health commissioner for New York City from 1991 to 1997 — during both the Dinkins (D) and Giuliani (R) administrations — she developed an innovative program for controlling the spread of tuberculosis that became a model for health departments around the world. In the 1990s, TB was the leading infectious killer of youths and adults and had become resistant to standard drugs. To be effective, new drugs required patients to take pills every day for up to two years, but failure to complete the full course of treatment allowed the bacteria to mutate into drug-resistant strains. Dr. Hamburg sent healthcare workers to patients’ homes to help manage their drug regimen, and between 1992 and 1997, the TB rate for New York City fell by 46 percent, and by 86 percent for the most resistant strains.
  • She also strove to improve health services for women and children, instituted needle-exchange programs to combat HIV infection, and initiated the nation’s first public-health bio-terrorism defense program. During her term as health commissioner, she also held academic positions at Columbia University School of Public Health and Cornell University Medical College, both in New York City.
  • President Clinton selected her in 1997 to be assistant secretary for policy and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2001 she became vice president for biological programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation dedicated to reducing the threat to public safety from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. More recently, Dr. Hamburg was the Assistant Secretary for planning and evaluation at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, where she created the bioterrorism initiative and led planning for pandemic flu response.
  • Dr. Hamburg is a graduate of Radcliffe College. She earned her M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and completed her training at the New York Hospital/Cornell University Medical Center. She did research in neuroscience at Rockefeller University in New York and in neuropharmacology at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
  • Dr. Hamburg is the daughter of Beatrix and David Hamburg, both distinguished physicians and early role models for her career in medicine. Her mother was the first African-American woman to attend Vassar College and to earn a degree from the Yale University School of Medicine (which had previously excluded black students). Her Jewish father and grandmother taught her to value education and family and to fight discrimination and oppression. Dr. Hamburg has a husband and two teenaged daughters.

You can read more about Dr. Hamburg’s nomination here.

Congratulations, Dr. Hamburg!!!

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