White House mum on future FDA boss


Washington-The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made his case to White House officials. Senator Edward Kennedy appears to have endorsed it. And fellow senators concur.

Washington-The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services has made his case to White House officials. Senator EdwardKennedy appears to have endorsed it. And fellow senators concur.

But they continue to await the John Hancock of President George W. Bushfor the approval of the next Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

White House Media Affairs told DVM Newsmagazine at presstime it cannotspeculate on when the appointment might be made. It also would not confirmor deny candidates who have been named.

At least one name significant to the veterinary profession remainson the table: Lester Crawford, DVM, Ph.D. (See DVM Newsmagazine October,p. 11). If named, it would be a first time in the history of the agencythat a veterinarian would assume the post. Crawford declined any commenton the status of his candidacy for commissioner.

Crawford, who served in the FDA's Bureau of Veterinary Medicine (1978-80)and Center for Veterinary Medicine (1982-85) as well as other food safetyposts, currently heads the Virginia Tech Center for Food and Nutrition Policy.A spokesman for the Center, Stewart McInnis, said at presstime, he knewnothing of any decisions as to when and if Crawford will be selected.

In Capitol Hill circles

According to several news sources, Crawford appears likely to be thecandidate of choice among certain senators.

Tommy Thompson, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services,tells a regulatory and legislative newsletter, "The Pink Sheet,"that Senate Health Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and membersof his committee signed off on his commissioner selection. However Thompsonhas not publicly announced his selection of Crawford, except to say "it'sa he, and it's a scientist."

Kennedy reportedly sent President Bush a letter in July signaling hewas opposed to any FDA nominee who is affiliated with industry and who doesnot have a scientific or medical background.

Whether he was alluding to a second candidate President George W. Bushwas considering is unclear. That candidate, according to Food and ChemicalNews, is attorney Michael Astrue, senior executive at a biopharmaceuticalcompany.

However, in a late edition of Food Chemical News, Astrue, who reportedlyhas ties to Bush's father, has withdrawn his name from the selection process.He cited Sen. Edward Kennedy's opposition to any nomination from the foodor drug industry.

On Crawford's team

Dr. Joseph L. Blair, executive vice president of the American Associationof Food Hygiene Veterinarians, says Crawford - a longstanding member ofthe association - has a "fairly high" chance of being appointed.

As administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, Crawfordhas "an excellent understanding" of food hygiene and the roleveterinarians play in food hygiene.

Additionally, his experience as director of the Center for VeterinaryMedicine at FDA, says Blair, provides him with "as good a grasp ofthe food safety issues of any of the candidates being considered."

Dr. Dale D. Boyle, executive vice president of the National Associationof Federal Veterinarians, says the FDA nomination is pivotal for the profession- especially for someone of Dr. Crawford's caliber.

Boyle cites Crawford's "years of experience" and public recognitionfor his leadership in scientific fields.

"Basically in the veterinary profession, many times we feel weare underappreciated for our knowledge, skills, abilities and accomplishments.It's a distinct honor for a veterinarian to get a shot at something likethis," Boyle says.

He believes what is foremost on Crawford's agenda is the issue of bioterrorism.

"If anthrax remains a major threat, the veterinary profession knowsmore about anthrax than any other profession," Boyle says, adding thatthe vast majority of talent and leadership in the biological warfare defensefield is attributed to veterinarians.

The chances Bush will pick Crawford over Astrue: "You got a coin?"asks Boyle.

As to when that decision will be made, some government sources indicateit will be either very soon or when Congressional sessions resume in January.

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