Trump Nominates New FDA Commissioner

November 8, 2019

Oncologist Stephen Hahn has been nominated for the top post, following the appointment of Brett Giroir as acting commissioner.

Ever since former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb left the agency in April 2019, there has been much speculation about who would assume the top post at FDA. Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless reached the end of his 210-day tenure limit, and on November 1, 2019, Alex Azar, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), appointed Admiral Brett Giroir as the new acting FDA commissioner.  

President Donald Trump has nominated Dr. Stephen Hahn, chief medical executive of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, as FDA Commissioner.

Hahn is a radiation oncologist who has been at MD Anderson in Houston since 2015. He was previously head of radiation oncology at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In November 2019, Politicoreported that Hahn was on the short list of contenders for the top post at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Cancer Center in New York City when news of the nomination came.

Former acting commissioner Sharpless, who brought increased focus to policies designed to reduce drug costs, will return to his previous position as director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  In September 2019, a number of former FDA commissioners and representatives of 60 healthcare groups wrote to President Trump and Secretary Azar recommending that Sharpless be named Commissioner. However, senators (notably Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois) criticized the former acting commissioner for failing to take a more decisive position against e-cigarettes and vaping.

Current acting commissioner Giroir, who has served as assistant secretary for health at HHS since 2018, is a specialist in pediatric critical care. Formerly executive vice-president and CEO of Texas A&M’s Health Science Center, he had previously been a professor of pediatrics and engineering at Texas A&M and served as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Defense Sciences Offices. He was the nation’s top high school debate champion in 1978, with a magna cum laude B.S. in biology from Harvard and an MD from the University of Texas.

Sources: FDA, Rueters, Politico,FOCR