FederalHealthcareIssuesPresident Trump to Nominate MD Anderson Executive as Next FDA Commissioner

Dr. Stephen Hahn, a top executive at Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been tapped to be the next commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration.
November 5, 2019
On Friday, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Stephen Hahn, an oncologist and top executive at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, to be the next commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to a press release from the White House.

As of last Friday at 5 p.m., acting commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Ned Sharpless, was no longer legally able to serve due to the Federal Vacancies and Reform Act, which prohibits individuals from serving in an “acting” capacity for more than 210 days. 

Dr. Hahn will assume the role of FDA commissioner pending Senate confirmation with Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Brett Grior, assuming the commissioner’s responsibilities for the duration of the confirmation process. 

Dr. Stephen Hahn, chief medical executive, Gilbert H. Fletcher Memorial Distinguished Chair, and Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center)

Since 2018, Dr. Hahn has served as the chief medical executive at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, which employs more than 21,000 people, generates an annual revenue of more than $5.2 billion, and boasts the provision of more than $170 million in uncompensated care to uninsured or underinsured Texans. 

Although his expertise as an oncologist primarily focuses on treating lung cancer and sarcoma, Hahn has been praised for his leadership and decisive action following a series of financial losses in 2016 from which he helped the nationally-acclaimed hospital to recover. 

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A man familiar with Houston, Hahn graduated from Rice University in 1980 before attending medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia. Throughout his career, he has co-authored more than 22 peer-reviewed articles. 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar praised President Trump’s pick of Dr. Hahn saying, “Stephen is a talented, experienced leader whose scientific accomplishments make him well prepared to lead FDA in its vital public health mission.”

He continued by thanking Dr. Sharpless for his “exemplary job” fulfilling the duties of the acting commissioner, saying he looks forward to working with him in the future. 

Sharpless will return to his former work as director of the National Cancer Institute, despite garnering strong support from a number of prominent medical associations who sent a letter advocating for a permanent position with the FDA to both President Trump and Secretary Azar. 

He assumed the role of acting commissioner in April after the resignation of President Trump’s first FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, in March. 

If confirmed, Hahn will inherit an agency with a budget of $5.7 billion whose responsibilities include overseeing a number of regulatory initiatives including food and drug safety, medical devices, cosmetics, veterinary supplies, and tobacco products among others

Recently, the agency has faced scrutiny regarding e-cigarettes and vaping devices as some advocacy groups have raised safety concerns about the products and their influence on the younger population.

Additionally, the next FDA commissioner will inherit an agency facing critical examination over the manufacturing practices of certain drugs and an ongoing national opioid crisis, inflamed by drug cartels operating at the U.S. southern border, that was responsible for more than 29,000 deaths by overdose in 2017.


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Sarah McConnell, Reporter for The Texan

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.