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Reports: FDA commissioner Hamburg to step down

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Margaret Hamburg

WASHINGTON — Margaret Hamburg reportedly is stepping down as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Published reports said Thursday that the 59-year-old Hamburg is slated to leave the FDA commissioner post at the end of March and that the Obama administration plans to make a formal announcement on Friday.

Plans call for FDA chief scientist Stephen Ostroff to serve as interim FDA chief until the administration appoints a successor to Hamburg, according to reports.

Hamburg is one of the longest-serving FDA commissioners in the modern era. President Obama appointed her to the position effective May 2009, making her the second woman to serve in the post.

As FDA commissioner, Hamburg was responsible for drug and health product safety and innovation, safety of the food supply and nutrition, and control of tobacco products, among other duties. She said in a blog post this week that in 2014 the FDA approved 51 novel drugs and biologics, the most in almost 20 years.

Hamburg is an internationally recognized leader in public health and medicine and an authority in such areas as public health systems, infectious disease and bioterrorism.

From 2005 to 2009, Hamburg was the senior scientist at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation focused on reducing the threat to public safety from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. From 2001 to 2005, as the foundation’s vice president for biological programs, she advocated for broad reforms to confront the dangers of modern bioterrorism as well as the threats of naturally occurring infectious diseases such as pandemic flu.

In 1997, she accepted the position of assistant secretary for policy and evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 1994, she was elected as a member of the Institute of Medicine, one of the youngest people to be named to the institute.

From 1991 to 1997, Hamburg served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She was credited by the president with helping to turn around a demoralized city health department, cutting the tuberculosis rate by nearly half in the nation’s largest city.


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