HHS/CDC Ends Howard’s Tenure as NIOSH Director

The six-year term of John Howard, M.D. as director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health is coming to an end. A brief announcement Thursday from CDC’s Media Relations office said that CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding had met with Howard and let him know that his tenure will end July 14 and that, meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services/CDC will begin a search for a new NIOSH director. The announcement noted that Howard has agreed to a short-term assignment as senior advisor to the CDC director to ensure that World Trade Center activities are effectively managed during the transition.

The announcement came despite appeals from two organizations to President Bush and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to reappoint Howard. The American Society of Safety Engineers wrote:
“under [his] creative and dedicated leadership Dr. John Howard has been instrumental in unleashing a wealth of talent at NIOSH and helping bring together the research and educational resources of NIOSH to the day-to-day practice of our members in workplaces across the nation. We do not know why such a highly competent leader and administrator of an agency that has been, by any measure, a success in the eyes of our members across the country and the entire safety and health community should not be reappointed.”

Similarly, American Industrial Hygiene Association President Donald J. Hart, Ph.D, CIH, noted in his letter of the association’s support of Howard that, as director, Howard’s “list of accomplishments . . . is long and varied,” including his establishment of a “Research to Practice” office and his instituting more access to NIOSH research and results than ever before.

”The list of specific successes could go on and on,” Hart wrote. “Since the creation of NIOSH back in 1970, the agency has been well-served by Directors with an understanding, dedication and knowledge of occupational health and safety. However, I believe I am safe in saying that never in the history of the Institute has a Director been as successful and respected by partners and stakeholders as Dr. John Howard. This applies to one and all--professional associations, labor, industry, employers and workers. He has been more than a Director of NIOSH; he has been a partner and friend to AIHA and many others. In closing, I urge you to reappoint Dr. John Howard as Director of NIOSH. Do not allow the enormous success of the past six years to go stale or the on-going efforts to be delayed. Dr. Howard has strong, capable leadership; is respected by NIOSH employees, partners and stakeholders; and has undoubtedly improved the health and safety of workers. Do not let this success languish for even one minute.”

Prior to serving as NIOSH chief, Howard directed the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) in California’s Department of Industrial Relations. He earned a Doctor of Medicine degree (1974), a Master of Occupational Health (1982), a Juris Doctor (1986), and a Master of Laws (1987).

The announcement from CDC’s Media Relations Office concludes: “During his six years of service, Dr. Howard was very attentive in addressing the concerns and needs of NIOSH stakeholders and he has worked diligently on many challenging issues. We thank him for his service to the country.”

Christine Branche, Ph.D., will serve as the acting NIOSH director beginning on July 15.

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