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David A. Kessler, M.D. - FDA Awards Ceremony

Remarks by
David A. Kessler

Commissioner of Food and Drugs
FDA Awards Ceremony

Rockville, Md.
May 27, 1994

Good afternoon and congratulations.
This is an important day, a day that we honor and celebrate the outstanding work of FDA employees.

What you do -- and do so well -- makes a real difference in the lives of the American people. You can take great pride in that.

I was in Wisconsin a few days ago and someone came up to me and complimented me on the work of FDA.

I said what I always say when that happens: I said I work with great people and my job is to make it possible for them to do their job.

It's that simple.

Your hard work and dedication enable FDA to take on tough problems and keep pushing until they are fixed.

The wealth of expertise that you bring to this Agency and the competent and dedicated way you take on tasks enable us to do the job right. You make this place shine. And over the past year, we can take pride in the many ways that it did shine.

Think back to some of what we have accomplished together over the past year: We saw the new food label appear on virtually all processed foods; we announced HACCP regulations that usher in a new era in food safety; we executed a landmark agreement with Russia on drug approvals and made major strides in international harmonization of drug approval requirements.

We established a system to oversee the safety of human tissues used in transplants, and never let up in our determination to make sure that the nation's blood supply is as safe as possible.

We moved important therapeutic agents through the review process expeditiously but also insisted on companies obtaining sound scientific data about products we regulate.

We introduced MEDWatch to better monitor approved products and ultimately prevent patient suffering and even death. We began to put in place mammography quality standards and moved to expand our efforts on behalf of women's health.

Strong enforcement actions -- some of the strongest in this Agency's history -- sent a clear message to companies that we expect them to comply with our laws and regulations. We received approval to consolidate FDA's facilities.

We distinguished ourselves with our investigation and resolution of the Pepsi tampering.

We began to ask the tough questions about nicotine.

Many of these activities were highly visible and will be familiar to all of you.

But these awards today also recognize some of your less visible but equally critical activities -- activities that make it possible for this Agency to do its job and that advance the public health day by day.

For example, honorees today include those who got us through some critical reorganizations within the Agency, who educated practitioners about the safe use of devices or convened international experts to advance our understanding of the safety of device materials.

We honor today FDA staff who made sure our advisory committees are functioning well and those who are doing the hard work to make sure that important legislative initiatives like user fees achieve their goals.

I've mentioned only a handful of the accomplishments we honor today.

Only a few pages of the scrapbook of the past year.

But they tell the story of a proud agency.

It is a story of individual effort and of teamwork. Success rarely comes easy.

Behind the outstanding work we honor today there were often long days, and nights and weekends of work.

Let me express my personal gratitude to each of you --and to your families and friends for their understanding during those times.

Now it is time for all of us to come together to celebrate what you have achieved.

Commissioners come and go.

In the end, this agency is only as good as the people in its ranks.

You are the measure of how good we can be.

And today we say thank you and congratulations.

Before we begin the main ceremony, I want to take a moment to recognize five individuals who have achieved something that some said could never be done.

Something that will improve the work environment of everyone at FDA in the not so distant future.

Today FDA is disadvantaged by the fact that our offices and laboratories are spread out over nearly 50 different facilities in D.C. and Maryland.

But because of the tireless efforts of these individuals -- and I can't overstate how much hard work was involved -- our facilities will be consolidated into two campuses.

Unfortunately, Deputy Commissioner Carol Scheman cannot be here today. She deserves our gratitude for the critical role she played in making this happen.

But I am pleased to honor four other leaders in this effort.

Would you please come forward now:

Sharon Smith Holston, Associate Commissioner for Management and Systems;

Voyce P. Whitley, retired Director, Office of Facilities and Administrative Management;

William H. Hoffman, Chief, Consolidation and Facilities Planning; and

Jagannath (Jag) R. Bhargava, Director of Development, FDA Project, General Services Administration.

I am pleased to present each of you with the Commissioner's Special Citation along with these framed newspaper headlines marking this milestone.

Thank you.