Who is she: Margaret A. Hamburg is commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), having been appointed by President Obama in 2009. She is an experienced medical doctor and public health administrator. In her position in the FDA, Dr. Hamburg has committed herself to strengthening the agency's programs to fulfill its goals in protecting public health and safety and to make the agency one that Americans can truly count on.
Prior to her current position, Margaret Hamburg was one of the youngest people ever appointed to head the Institute of Medicine. She is an expert not only in community health but also in the defense against biochemical warfare, having done research in these areas as well as on infectious and nerve-related diseases.
Earlier in her career, Dr. Hamburg served as commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of New York City from 1991 to 1997, where she helped improve services for women and children in order to reduce the spread of AIDS and initiated the country's first bioterrorism defense program.
Dr. Hamburg's most notable achievement was stopping the spread of tuberculosis in the 1990s, which had been undergoing a resurgence during that decade. Hamburg introduced an innovative approach whereby health workers paid visits to patients' homes to make sure they complied with the prescription regimens they were given. Because of her efforts, the tuberculosis occurrence rate dropped sharply and Margaret Hamburg's program became a model for other health service departments around the globe.
Dr. Hamburg was later one of the founders of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, serving as its vice president for biological programs from 2001 to 2005. In this role, Hamburg advocated measures for confronting the bioterrorism threat and addressed the issues of pandemic illnesses such as the flu.
In all her past and present jobs, Dr. Hamburg has always advocated changes in public health infrastructure and policies to make America better prepared against biochemical and nuclear threats.
Background: Margaret Hamburg was born to Beatrix and David Hamburg, who are both distinguished doctors and served as role models for her medical career. Her mother was the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree from Yale University. Her father was of Jewish descent and taught her the values of education and of fighting discrimination.
Margaret Hamburg graduated from Radcliffe College and earned her medical degree from Harvard University. She completed her medical residency at the Cornell University Medical Center and subsequently conducted research in neuroscience at Rockefeller University and at the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland between 1985 and 1986.
Hamburg subsequently took on work in the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion from 1986 to 1988. A year later, she became assistant director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where she focused on combating the AIDS epidemic.
In 1990, she took on the position of deputy health commissioner for New York City and was later promoted to health commissioner. Despite all the challenges of the job, Dr. Hamburg worked hard to improve health services for women and children, particularly in curbing the spread of HIV and tuberculosis. Concurrently, Hamburg held teaching positions at Columbia University and Cornell University.
In 1997, Dr. Hamburg became the assistant secretary for policy and evaluation at the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Margaret Hamburg also helped found the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation aimed at reducing the threat to public health and safety from nuclear and biochemical weapons of mass destruction. She served as the foundation's senior scientist from 2005 to 2009.
Dr. Hamburg is married to Peter Fitzburgh Brown, an expert on artificial intelligence. The couple have two children and currently live in Washington, D.C.