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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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by Karen A. Kandra
FDA Veterinarian Newsletter March/April 1999 Volume XIV, No II

Dr. Michael Blackwell describes himself as a "dyed in the wool FDAer", who is emotionally tied to his 22-year career at the Food and Drug Administration. However, on February 1, 1999, Dr. Blackwell left his post as Deputy Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, to become Chief of Staff with U.S. Surgeon General, Admiral David Satcher.

In his new assignment, Dr. Blackwell will assist Admiral Satcher and Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu in managing the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service (PHS). His outstanding record and achievements in the PHS qualified Dr. Blackwell for selection as the first veterinarian to hold this prestigious position.http://wcms.fda.gov/ucm/resources/wcm/sitestudio/

Since1994, Dr. Blackwell has served as CVM’s Deputy Director, and he is proud of many significant accomplishments during that time.

He assisted Director, Dr. Stephen Sundlof in handling the challenges facing the Center for Veterinary Medicine. As a career FDAer, Dr. Blackwell had the knowledge and experience necessary to oversee day-to-day Center operations. Along with Dr. Sundlof, the management team has strengthened relationships with stakeholders, making tremendous gains by increasing collaborative efforts with external customers.

To improve CVM’s service to its worldwide stakeholders and to address complex issues facing them, Dr. Blackwell helped change the scope of the Office of the Director. The Policy and Regulations Team was placed under that Office to handle such important functions as preparation of guidance documents and regulations. By adding special assistants in needed areas to perform duties formerly handled by other Offices, the Center is improving its ability to interact with both internal and external customers.

CVM can now utilize the science of epidemiology more formally in the regulatory process, thanks to the long-overdue establishment of an Epidemiology Team. Dr. Blackwell also contributed to the appointment of the first woman Office Director in CVM, and the first African American selected as Division Director. A work group appointed by Dr. Blackwell was formed to draft the CVM diversity policy to assist in hiring efforts to better ensure a diverse work place.

A major regret for Dr. Blackwell is that he will not be available to continue CVM’s unfinished business of cultural change within the organization where people feel empowered to help make good decisions for the public health. Dr. Blackwell helped implement this ongoing effort, which he hopes will give employees a high level of trust and increased job satisfaction.

Dr. Blackwell received significant personal recognition and awards while at CVM. On October 7, 1997, he was promoted to the Commissioned Corps rank of Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General. From 1994 to 1998, Dr. Blackwell also served as the Chief Veterinary Officer in the Public Health Service and participated on many committees and work groups to help develop and implement public health policy for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Surgeon General.

Dr. Blackwell began his government career in 1977 as a Veterinary Medical Officer in the Bureau of Veterinary Medicine, and has served primarily in FDA, not only in CVM, but also in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). In addition, he also served at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When asked about his goals for his new assignment, Dr. Blackwell says he hopes to assist Drs. Satcher and Moritsugu to reestablish the Office of the Surgeon General and its role within the Department (DHHS). He believes it is important that the Department and the country prepare for a new era of threats, i.e., biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. A key component of that effort will be to improve the Commissioned Corps’ inactive reserve force, and provide proper training that would keep individuals in a state of readiness to respond in the event of a national emergency.

The Office of the Surgeon General will be working to achieve three major priorities of Dr. Satcher:

  1. A balanced community health system.
  2. A global approach to disease prevention and health promotion.
  3. Elimination of disparities in health care due to race or ethnicity.

Dr. Blackwell, your work is cut out for you -- we at CVM wish you all the best in your new position, and thank you for your major contributions to CVM.