Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sharfstein Speaks: Is He Headed To Washington?

During a Baltimore City rally for Barack Obama on Saturday, Dan Rodricks, a host for the local National Public Radio station, WYPR, got a coveted interview with a Baltimore official who has been making national headlines.

No, it wasn’t Baltimore City mayor, Sheila Dixon, who was recently indicted for perjury and theft charges (and who, may we add, did not receive a shout-out from president-elect Obama when he addressed the massive crowd).

WYPR spoke to Baltimore City health commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, one of two finalists for the FDA commissioner job. (You can read all about that story in this week’s issue of “The Pink Sheet.”) Sharfstein was at the Obama rally in an official capacity as health commissioner, directing people to warming tents and trying to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

And while that's certainly a good story, Rodricks also asked Sharfstein whether he would leaving Baltimore to become FDA commissioner. Sharfstein was non-committal (as would be expected), but also expressed his deep admiration for Obama, and the science-based policies that he will support as president.

We’ll let you be the judge on the meaning behind his remarks. Here’s the interview, as transcribed by us from an online recording of Dan’s show, which aired yesterday afternoon:

Dan Rodricks: Are you going to go to work in Washington? Are we going to lose you here in Baltimore?

Joshua Sharfstein: I’m fully expecting to be health commissioner of Baltimore. It’s a great job, and lots to do this year.

Rodricks: OK, because there have been all these stories in the press about Joshua Sharfstein and the Food and Drug Administration.

Sharfstein: I know, my mom sends them all to me.

Rodricks: But you’re going to be around here for a while?

Sharfstein: That’s what I totally expect.

Rodricks: What do you expect from Barack Obama….Are you expecting generally more progressive ideas coming out of the White House?

Sharfstein: Absolutely. The first thing he said is that he wants to base health policy on the science. That’s a huge shift from what we’ve had. When you look at the science, you look at what things have worked, those are the kinds of things that we’re trying to do in Baltimore. I think we can expect some support for that, because we’ve got evidence for what we are doing. ...

Rodricks: Have you felt this way before about a president?

Sharfstein: I’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s been terrific. I’ve had a chance to work on the transition some, and that’s been great. From the moment—I just remember Iowa and everything, it’s just been so exciting.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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