July 3, 2008 The Pump Handle 9Comment

The six-year term of John Howard, MD as director of the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety is coming to an end.  An annoucement today from CDC’s Media Relations office said:

“Dr. Julie Gerberding met with Dr. John Howard and let him know that HHS/CDC will begin a search for a new NIOSH director.”

That was the lead sentence.  Ouch….that’s cold.

The announcement came despite appeals from two organizations to President G.W. Bush and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to reappoint Dr. 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.”   

A simliar letter of support for Dr. Howard was sent by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (here).

Prior to serving as NIOSH chief, Dr. 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 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, PhD will serve as the acting NIOSH director beginning on July 15.

9 thoughts on “Farewell NIOSH’s Dr. John Howard

  1. Even more ridiculous, in addition to labor and the public health community, Dr. Howard’s reappointment was supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

    Julie Gerberding may, in fact, be the only person in the United States that opposed it.

  2. Julie Gerberding herself needed to go long ago.There were many fiasco’s at the CDC, too numerous to list here, that should have led to Dr. Gerberding’s firing or resignation. The problems continue in spades as I write this.

    It is indeed very sad that the CDC has lost the trust of many of its own employees, many in the scientific community and most importantly the American public

    This lost of trust in the CDC may take years or decades to regain- if ever?

    Dr. Rick Lippin

  3. One of the biggest challenges facing workplace safety over the next decade will be working safely with emerging technologies, that don’t always follow the rules when it comes to protecting workers.

    John Howard understood this, and positioned NIOSH to address these future challenges as well as the ones that still plague us from past technologies. The decision not to renew his tenure will jeopardize what has been achieved so far, and make it all the harder to ensure the safety of the American workforce working with increasingly important new technologies.

    Was this really a wise choice? I think not.

    More at: http://community.safenano.org/blogs/andrew_maynard/archive/2008/07/03/why-nanotechnology-needs-john-howard-but-will-have-to-do-without.aspx

    Andrew Maynard

  4. Just a note to say that I am proud to have been part of the WRT team even though I have played a very minor role in this process. In addition to my usual pride in the work of NIOSH and my government, I am particularly pleased about the manner in which the whole NORA approach was revamped and revised by NIOSH under the outstanding visonary leadership of Dr John Howard. The new NORA is a great example of the USA at its best.

    Nowhere else have I found a combination of non-traditonal stakeholders mixed with academia and employer representatives from the major multinational corporations themselves pro-actively engaged in a direct line of communication with the government. This model is useful for many types of regulation as well as our research agenda in the USA.

    Dr Howard has done a splendid job of inspiring us, and has consistently demonstrated the humility to incorporate the best ideas from people of all walks of life.

    As I saw in Las Vegas where I had the hoinor of speaking about the new fifth edition of the ILO Encyclopaedia of Occupational Safetz and Health’s search for ten thousand expets to work on the fifth edition, at the ASSE:

    Dr Howard is always giving the constituents his attention, by exploring their notions with keen interest and a remarkable array of information in his personal fund of knowledge. In that particular instance, he was giving full voice to the needs of the hispanic community that suffers at a disproprotionately higher rate from some hazards compared to the population in general.

    Dr Howard was actively engaged in his concern about their lingusitic and cultural differences that may give rise to this lethal difference, and wanted very defintiely to hear what was expressed about special needs. I did point out then and remind this group assembled now that Spanish is one of SAFEWORKs three official languages, so I encourage you to come to our webpage or our staff with requests for our reports and posters in Spanish. But the only reason I felt comfortable making such a comment is because Dr Howard has a way of making all the participants feel welcome because he treats with equal dignity and attention for every comment or request.

    Without question, Dr. Howard has the patience to listen carefully to each stakeholder and the ability to understand complex concepts at many levels at the same time, which are the hallmarks of a truly great leader. As a member of the Official staff among international civil servants within the international community, i can safely say that his leadership and his substantive contributions are respected worldwide.

    As you know, I am unable to attend the new WRT NORA meetings because I have been assigned to my Mission in Korea as staff to the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work.

    I wish I were in beautiful Denver, even though as I write this I am also looking at splendid mountains here in Switzerland. I am pleased however, that our two organizations are bound not only by the happenstance of my USA training, education and citizenship but the NIOSH / SAFEWORK Memorandum of Understanding signed on April 23 2008 in Washington, DC. That agreement allows for many wonderful opportunities for the sharing and exchange of information by both agencies, which will come to full flower in the 5th Edition of the ILO Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, specifically mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding.

    The Director of the international programme on safety and health in the work environment, has therefore prepared a videotape message to the forthcoming NORA conference. Her comments on CD Rom also has four minutes of explanation about the 5th Edition of the Encyclopaedia itself.

    Looking forward to seeing you in the near future and thank again John for a splendid and inspiuring job more than werll done,
    all the best,
    Ilise L. Feitshans JD and ScM
    Coordinator Encyclopaedia
    5th Edition ILO Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety
    International Labour Organization–the Oldest Specialized Agency of the United Nations CH-1211 Geneva Switzerland
    Swisscom portable 41 79 836 3965
    Switzerland 41 22 799 7443
    USA cell 917 239 9960 ( June 8-14 2008 )
    VIDEO LINK (inviting people to join the netowrk of Ten THOUSAND eXPERTS) http://www.trainingprofessionals.com/ilo.html

  5. Obviously there is a political dimension here, in which the job of protecting the public is, as often the case with this administration, unimportant.

    Thank you for your outstanding efforts Dr. Howard!

  6. As a Calif Safety Pro, Dr Howard was a fair and courteous leader of Cal/OSHA. This is a real loss to the nation. Hopefully there will be a place for Dr Howard in Jan after the change of administration. Maybe he should be the new Asst Sec of Labor for OSHA in Jan?

    I too attended the ASSE conference in Las Vegas and Dr Howard was a great speaker really standing up for integrity in recordkeeping and overall safety and health.

    I agree with Mine Guy above, but I don’t understand why Dr Gerberding isn’t just running out the clock lie the rest of the Bush administration? Must be a personal disagreement which really has no place in an agency as important as NIOSH. We’ve all had bosses who are jerks so my sympathies to Dr Howard.

  7. I worked for Dr. John Howard while I was an employee of CAL/OSHA from 1990-1993. I have never met a man MORE compassionate about his job, during the Gov. Pete Wilson workers’ rights suppression era, while showing a GREAT amount of respect for his staff. He is one of the country’s FINEST worker safety guardians. NIOSH’s loss is a loss for ALL Americans!!

  8. I made a typo error. I worked for Dr. Howard from 1990-1996. Dr. Howard is one of the BEST people I have EVER worked for! I am so very saddened by his unexpected and unwanted departure. He should have NEVER been terminated!!

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