Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Gupta in for Galson: What's Next for Former FDAer?

Anyone looking at the FDA public calendar this week (who doesn’t love to keep track of the comings and goings of government officials?) may have noticed something peculiar: Steven Galson, the former director of the Center for Drugs, was listed as an FDA participant in a recent meeting at the agency.

According to FDA’s website, Galson joined FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach and Center for Drug Evaluation & Research director Janet Woodcock at a “meet and greet” with the University of Florida officials at FDA’s Silver Spring headquarters on December 17. Galson and Woodcock are listed as “other FDA participants.”

There are a lot of changes expected in FDA leadership in the next few weeks, but Steve Galson’s return to the agency was not one of them. So naturally, we were a bit curious. Could Galson, who left CDER in October 2007 to become acting US Surgeon General, be returning to FDA? Or did the agency’s webmaster err in including him on the calendar?

We reached out to Galson to ask him to explain. It turns out he was invited to participate in the closure of an agreement between FDA and the University of Florida on a new fellowship program. That program, which is designed to bring fresh blood into FDA, is a pet project of von Eschenbach’s and one that his principle deputy commissioner, Frank Torti, has been overseeing since joining FDA last summer.

Galson was invited not in his capacity of a former FDA official (despite what the public calendar says), but because the Florida deal involves officers in the Public Health Service, and as acting Surgeon General, Galson is the Commander of the Commissioned Corps. (He’s also a Rear Admiral.)

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that a return to FDA isn’t in the cards. Galson is expecting to be out of a job in the next few months: according to the Washington Post, President-elect Barack Obama has offered the Surgeon General position to prominent neurosurgeon and television talking head Sanjay Gupta.

Galson is a career government official—not a presidential appointee—so he's not expected to be immediately asked leave the Surgeon General’s office once Obama takes office. But with Gupta as the apparent pick as his successor, it looks like Galson will be looking for another job in the next few months. So what’s next for the former FDA official?

Galson says “is not ruling out any possibilities”—including a potential return to FDA. His next move, Galson says, will depend on how certain appointments come out (presumably the FDA commissioner spot), but he's “looking at all options.”

We’re sure Galson has lots of options—in addition to FDA, he has held senior-level positions at the Environmental Protection Agency (as head of the Office of Science Coordination & Policy) and Department of Energy (as chief medical officer) and worked earlier in his career at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Galson did join FDA specifically to help the agency revamp its postmarketing surveillance program. That was in 2001, and the agency is still revamping its postmarketing surveillance program. We're just speculating here, but maybe that “meet and greet” at FDA will be the start of Galson's next career move.

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