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Former NYC Health Commissioner On Tap to Lead the FDA

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A former city Health Commissioner is reported to be President Obama’s pick to lead the F.D.A. WNYC’s Fred Mogul reports.

REPORTER: Dr. Margaret Hamburg was appointed by Mayor Dinkins in 1991 and ran the Health Department during a period when public health often clashed with local politics.

Hamburg led efforts to distribute clean syringes to intravenous drug users and crack down on gay sex clubs which reemerged after being closed in the 1980s. She exercised the Health Department’s authority to quarantine people infected with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis who did not follow medical regimens. And she fought Dinkins on proposed budget cuts, until funding was restored.

Public health experts have praised her selection as FDA chief, and even some community advocates, who are frequently at odds with city health officials, say Hamburg effectively balanced civil rights with the occasional need for strong, politically unpopular medicine. For WNYC, I’m Fred Mogul.

HOST: Hamburg later went on to work for President Clinton in the Health and Human Services Department, and for most of the last decade has worked on bio-terrorism preparedness for a Washington think tank.

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