President Trump intends to nominate Dr. Stephen Hahn
(pictured here) as the new FDA commissioner

Trump to nominate radiation oncologist for FDA commissioner position

November 04, 2019
by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter
A number of medical associations have come out in support of President Donald J. Trump’s intent to nominate Dr. Stephen Hahn as the new commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration.

The president announced his intention on Friday, with approval required by the Senate. If successful, the board certified medical and radiation oncologist would take over the position held by Scott Gottlieb, who resigned in March after serving as head of the federal agency for nearly two years.

"I have known Dr. Hahn for many years and have served with him in numerous capacities. He possesses the qualities needed to successfully lead the FDA ... intelligence, medical and scientific expertise, an engaging style and a clear sense of how to get to the right answer, particularly in complicated situations,” said Dr. Theodore L. DeWeese, chair of the ASTRO board of directors — of which Hahn was a member from 2014 to 2018 — in a statement.

The chief medical executive at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Hahn has held a variety of leadership roles, including one as commander in the U.S. Public Health Service, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and another as a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute from 1989 to 1996. He is currently the Gilbert H. Fletcher Memorial Distinguished Chair and professor of Radiation Oncology at MDACC — a position he has held since January 2015 — and was previously the Henry K. Pancoast Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology from 2005-2014 at the University of Pennsylvania, according to the White House.

Graduating in 1980 with a degree in biology from Rice University, Hahn attended medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia, from which he graduated in 1984. He then completed his residency in radiation oncology at NCI, along with a fellowship there in medical oncology, before embarking on another residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Hospitals.

He has developed multiple medical solutions, providing him knowledge of the drug, biologic and device development pipeline, and earned international recognition for his work in treating lung cancer.

“We congratulate Dr. Hahn on his nomination to lead FDA, and we hope the Senate moves swiftly to confirm him,” president and CEO Scott Whitaker of the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) said in a statement. “Dr. Hahn’s distinguished career as a health care provider and researcher gives him a unique perspective on the importance of patient access to the latest medical advances. His extensive management experience and evidence-based approach to addressing the significant health care challenges we face today will serve him well in his new post.”

Also encouraging the Senate to move quickly in its deliberations is the American Heart Association, which pleaded in its own statement for Hahn, if appointed, to address the growing trend of vaping among young people.

“We urge Dr. Hahn to make the crisis of rising tobacco use and nicotine addiction among youth a top priority,” said AHA CEO Nancy Brown. “Flavored tobacco is what causes most youth tobacco users to begin the habit, and flavors including fruit, candy, mint and menthol have driven the alarming rise of electronic cigarette use among kids in this country. We hope that while this nomination is pending, the administration will move forward quickly to protect America’s children by removing all flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, from the market.”

Norman “Ned” Sharpless, who has been acting FDA commissioner since Gottlieb's departure, has returned to his position as director of the National Cancer Institute. Brett Giroir, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, is currently acting as head of the agency until a permanent leader is found, according to The Texas Tribune.