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April 30th, 2009
09:00 PM ET

Why isn't Obama's top pandemic expert in her job yet?

Jonathan Cohn
The New Republic

If you had to conjure up the perfect official to advise President Obama about the swine flu outbreak, it'd probably be somebody who had a strong background in public health–say, somebody who had run the public health department for a vast, densely populated city like New York City.

It'd be better, still, if this person had experience in the federal government, as well, perhaps in the Department of Health and Human Servcies. And it'd be just perfect if this person's portfolio included crafting the federal pandemic response strategy.

Of course, you'd want this person to have a record of achievement. You'd be pleased to learn this person was the youngest ever to serve as that city's health commissioner–and that, in the job, that person had managed to increase the child vaccination rate while reducing the incidence of tuberculosis.

You'd also want to see evidence of this person's judgment and vision–like if, hypothetically, this person had testified to Congress about the threat of bioterrorism in 2001, months before the 9/11 attacks and anthrax scare.

As you've probably guessed by now, President Obama has already appointed just such a person to his administration. It's Maragaret Hamburg, who is in line to become commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration–one of the key agencies dealing with the swine flu outbreak.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Public Health
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Ann-Monroe, New York

    What is the difference between epidemic and pendemic.....is there a difference, if so what is it?

    April 30, 2009 at 9:32 pm |
  2. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    So let's see, who is it who controls Congress now, and schedules when hearings happen? Can you say the Democrats? I knew you could. Obama, ready to lead on day one, there's just no one there to follow him.

    April 30, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    Sounds like Obama needs to light a fire under the Senate to get this person confirmed so she can be busy now with setting policy for the containment of this flu. What good is it going to do if she isn't in the job until after the flu has spread to untold thousands of people?

    April 30, 2009 at 8:38 pm |
  4. Ryan Walsh

    I saw a question earlier somewhere asking whether we were overreacting to the N1H1 flu or not. In response, I think we are not at all. We are being cautious, but rightfully so. It seems to me that you should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Keep up the good work.
    Ryan Walsh-age 15-Texas

    April 30, 2009 at 8:12 pm |