Friday, March 13, 2009

Galson’s Next Career Move: Tobacco Chief?

For former FDA official Steve Galson, the news that CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta has withdrawn from consideration as President Obama’s top choice for Surgeon General means that he still has a job—at least for a little while longer.

Galson, the former director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation & Research, has served as acting Surgeon General since October 2007. Since then, he has kept a relatively low profile, even for his office, which hasn’t had a publicly visible Surgeon General since C. Everett Koop during the Reagan Administration.

Gupta’s star power would have changed all that, but it looks like that’s not in the cards. For Galson, that means holding down the fort a little longer while Team Obama regroups and settles on a backup. When this does all shake out, Galson will have a lot of options—a return to FDA among them—as we’ve blogged in this earlier post.

So we’d like to put forth a suggestion made by one of our intrepid readers: should Congress agree to give FDA regulatory authority over the tobacco industry, who better to head the Center for Tobacco Products than former acting Surgeon General Steven Galson?*

Here’s why: Galson is a former FDA official, so he’s walked that beat before. He is a rear admiral in the Public Health Service, so he’s got that angle covered. He’s worked for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, so he knows all about the risks associated with tobacco use. And he’s been at the Environmental Protection Agency—hey, isn’t tobacco an environmental hazard?

We think it’s a brilliant fit, and the timing might work out perfectly. Once a permanent Surgeon General is named, Galson isn’t likely to stick around. While he has said he’d consider a return to FDA, that depends in large part on the inclinations of the expected commissioner nominee, Margaret Hamburg. (Which, despite what you may have read elsewhere, you heard about here first. Just saying.)

Anyway, given that congressional action on tobacco is a foregone conclusion, the Administration will be looking for someone to head up FDA’s oversight. Hamburg may choose to take an active role, given her resume, but she’ll still need someone to head the center. We figure that at about that time, Galson will be looking to make his next career move. What perfect timing!

Naturally, there are a lot of “ifs” in that scenario: if FDA gains the authority to regulate tobacco; if the law clears the legal challenges that are sure to follow; if Galson is offered the job; and if he is willing to accept it. (And if the world hasn’t ended by the time all that happens.)

Given all that, it may not happen. But it sure is fun to think about.

*Not based on fact or rumor; just a career suggestion.

No comments: