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Margaret Hamburg in 2012.

Margaret Hamburg in 2012.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration/Flickr

FDA commissioner to step down

After serving nearly 6 years as head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Margaret Hamburg has announced that she will step down. In an e-mail to colleagues released to the media today, Hamburg called her time as commissioner “the most rewarding of my career” and said she was “leaving the agency well-positioned to fulfill its responsibilities to the American public with great success.”

Despite several turbulent episodes in her tenure—including criticism over FDA’s minimal regulation of the compounding pharmacies responsible for a deadly 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis—Hamburg’s tenure prompted high praise from colleagues and fellow health officials. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post that Hamburg had “done a terrific job.”

Her departure comes in the middle of a major overhaul of the agency’s food safety oversight and as legislators prepare to propose key changes to its medical product review and approval process. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R–MI), who is heading an initiative to streamline FDA’s review of new therapies, released a statement calling her a “great partner and participant” in the effort.

FDA Chief Scientist Stephen Ostroff will fill her position until President Barack Obama appoints a new commissioner. Duke University cardiologist Robert Califf, who will step in as deputy commissioner later this month, is rumored to be a likely successor