Food Safety Magazine

News | November 8, 2019

Trump’s FDA Nomination Overlooks Acting Commissioner

By Staff

Trump’s FDA Nomination Overlooks Acting Commissioner

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump announced plans to nominate Stephen Hahn as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s next Commissioner.

Since May 2018, Hahn has been the chief medical executive at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston. Since 2015, he’s been MDACC’s Gilbert H. Fletcher Memorial Distinguished Chair and Professor of Radiation Oncology. MDACC is a research-driven patient care organization that has approximately 21,000 employees with an annual revenue of $5 billion and the largest number of clinical trials in the United States.

Hahn’s specialty as a radiation oncologist centers around treating lung cancer and sarcoma. His published work includes 220 peer-reviewed original research articles.

Between 1996 and 2014, Hahn spent time at the University of Pennsylvania as a Henry K. Pancoast Professor.  He was chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology the latter half of his tenure. 

Before that, Hahn was a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) from 1989-1996. 

Hahn earned his B.A. in Biology from Rice University in 1980, followed by a medical degree from Temple University in 1984. He completed his residency in radiation oncology at NCI, his fellowship in medical oncology at NCI, and his residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Hospitals. Hahn is board-certified in both medical oncology and radiation oncology.

Norman “Ned” Sharpless served as Acting Commissioner of the FDA from April 2019 until just last week. In a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Federal Vacancies Reform Act does not allow any person to serve in an “Acting” role for more than 210 days. Sharpless’s 210-day run ended on November 1st. By law, he could no longer serve as Acting Commissioner of the FDA.

Sharpless will be returning to his role as director of NCI. Prior to joining FDA, Sharpless became NCI’s 15th director in 2017. 

If he passes Senate confirmation, Hahn would fill the vacancy left by Scott Gottlieb, the previous FDA Commissioner who left in April. Hahn’s confirmation would also mean that President Trump passed over former Acting Commissioner Sharpless for the position.

In the meantime, until Hahn’s FDA appointment is confirmed, HHS Secretary Alex Azar says that all duties related to the Commissioner role will be delegated to Admiral Brett Giroir, the current Assistant Secretary at HHS.

Hahn's confirmation hearing is scheduled for November 20th.

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