The unfathomable tragedy of 9/11 was a life-altering moment for me. As a surgical faculty member conducting burn trauma and wound repair research, I, along with many others who witnessed the carnage that day, made an unwavering commitment to never allow our country to be vulnerable again.
Through collaborations with colleagues, I learned about MCMi and Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise activities. I started reading about FDA's MCMi responsibilities to safeguard our national public health and security and knew immediately that this was my personal calling.
Since joining FDA in October 2010, in my role as medical officer and clinical reviewer, I have been able to make an impact on furthering product development for burn victims.
The images of destruction, horror, shock, and despair are seared in my memory, even more than a decade on. I was working at the Weill Cornell-New York Presbyterian Hospital on September 11, 2001, when the planes hit the towers of the World Trade Center. Stunned and unprepared,confused and afraid, my colleagues and I in the burn center rallied, clearing out the ICU and transporting the more stable patients to stepdown units and other ICUs throughout the hospital to make room for what we expected would be a massive influx of burn patients from Ground Zero.
But those mass casualty transports never came. Those patients who were received were so severely burned and systemically injured that every staff member who worked in the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center was personally affected for months after.
Suzanne Schwartz is FDA's Director of Emergency Preparedness/Operations and Medical Countermeasures in the Office of the Center Director at CDRH. Initially recruited in 2010 as a Commissioner’s Fellow, she became a Medical Officer in the Office of Device Evaluation, Division of Surgical Orthopedic and Restorative Devices, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Branch in August 2011. Suzanne spearheads the InterCenter Wound Healing Working Group and represents FDA in several inter-Agency working groups and integrated program teams for the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. Before joining FDA, she was a full time surgical faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Prior to that Suzanne was Medical Director & Tissue Bank Director of Ortec International, a startup biotechnology company focused on tissue engineering therapeutic approaches to burns and chronic wounds. Suzanne earned an MD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1988, an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business in 2012, and currently is enrolled in the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative – Harvard School of Public Health & Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Cohort X, December 2012-June 2013.