Veterinary leaders change at FDA

Published on March 30, 2016
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​ Dr. Bernadette Dunham
​ Michael R. Taylor  ​ Tracey Forfa Stephen Ostroff, MD  

Two Food and Drug Administration executives overseeing veterinary medicine are leaving the agency.  

Dr. Bernadette Dunham, who had been director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine since 2008, planned to leave that position at the end of March to become a visiting professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She will continue working with the FDA as senior adviser to the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, and, in a message, she described her new job as a one-health collaboration between the university’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and the FDA.

She will help develop interdisciplinary education and training for public health professionals, she said.

“Broadly, I will advise and assist the Milken Institute School of Public Health on developing curriculum and collaborations in the One Health area, workshops, and other initiatives,” she wrote.

Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine since 2010, also plans to leave the agency, June 1. An FDA announcement published March 8 indicated Taylor plans to continue working toward helping people access safe and nutritious food, but further details were unavailable. 

Dr. Dunham had been director of laboratory animal medicine and an adjunct professor of pharmacology at the State University of New York Health Science Center from 1989-1995, followed by eight years at the AVMA Governmental Relations Division. She started as a policy specialist and advanced to acting director, and she built coalitions, advocated for veterinarians, and provided opinions on legislation and regulations, according to JAVMA archives. 

Dr. Dunham became CVM director in January 2008, 10 months after the discovery that many pet foods were tainted with melamine and a month before the FDA announced indictments related to the contamination. During her tenure as director, the agency also started a process of restricting administration of certain antimicrobials to livestock and increasing veterinarian oversight of those drugs, investigated pet illnesses and deaths connected with jerky-type treats, clarified how the agency would enforce compounding laws, implemented animal feed rules intended to prevent spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, worked to promote management practices to reduce the risk of antiparasitic drug resistance, and approved an rDNA construct used to grow a company’s transgenic Atlantic salmon to market weight more quickly.

Tracey Forfa, who has been a CVM deputy director since 2008, will be acting director during the search for a permanent director.

Taylor’s previous work included serving as administrator of the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA acting undersecretary for food safety, a research professor, and a member of National Academy of Sciences expert committees on food-related issues, FDA information states. At the FSIS, he led public health reforms, guided development of safety requirements for meats, and addressed hazards of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in beef.

FDA information also describes him as a food safety expert who led implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, guided nutrition initiatives, oversaw efforts to eliminate certain antimicrobial uses connected with antimicrobial resistance development, worked on regulations to improve seafood safety, worked to implement nutrition labeling requirements, and gathered opinions on how to provide a safer and more wholesome food supply. 

Stephen Ostroff, MD, who had been acting FDA commissioner before Robert M. Califf, MD, was confirmed as commissioner in February, will replace Taylor as deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. He started working for the FDA in 2013 as chief medical officer in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and senior public health adviser to Taylor, and he became the FDA’s chief scientist in 2014, according to the announcement. He also has been deputy director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of epidemiology and acting physician general at the Pennsylvania Department of Health.