Obama admin to appoint new CDC, FDA leaders

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CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding will step down. Image Source: www.wikipedia.com  

President-elect Barack Obama’s administration has targeted two federal healthcare agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA, for a leadership reshuffling.

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Julie Gerberding, MD, will step down as CDC director when Obama is sworn in Jan. 20, to be replaced by William Gimson III, the agency's chief operating officer, until a permanent successor is named.

In addition, the FDA's current Science Chief Frank Torti, MD, will serve as acting director until a permanent commissioner is named. Deliberations over the FDA are difficult because of competing interests, but a decision could be made in the next three weeks, reported the WSJ.

Torti, the FDA's present principal deputy commissioner, was named to the temporary slot heading the agency over the longtime director of the drug division, Janet Woodcock, MD, who is under fire from Congress in relation to several drug-safety issues, including the importation of contaminated heparin from China.

Torti has been at the FDA since April, when he was brought in as chief scientist, from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he led its cancer center.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who has held 16 hearings concerning the FDA, asked Obama in a letter last month to the transition team, not to name any high-level official of the current agency to a post, because the drug division has been too closely aligned with the pharmaceutical industry’s agenda, reported the WSJ.

Concurrently, outgoing FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, Monday appointed Lou Valdez as associate commissioner for international programs, and Lori Davis as chief information officer (CIO).

Valdez will help lead implementation of the FDA's international programs at a time of growth and expansion of the agency and the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) international presence, the agency said. Valdez previously served as deputy director of the HHS Office of Global Health Affairs, where she led the development of government policy positions on international public-health issues.

Davis joined FDA as deputy CIO in November 2007 and has been instrumental in restructuring the Office of Information Management and centralizing IT project budgets and resources. In her new position, the FDA said that Davis will be responsible for strengthening its IT infrastructure, and for creating a IT foundation to enhance the interoperability of systems at the agency. Davis previously served as acting deputy director in the Office of Strategic Operations and Regulatory Affairs at CMS, as special assistant to the CMS chief operating officer, and as deputy director of CMS’ Office of HIPAA Standards (now the Office of e-health Standards and Services).