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 Underqualified Candidates in Health Advisory Roles

The FDA’s Reproductive Health Advisory Committee

 In several cases, the Bush administration’s candidates for advisory positions have so lacked qualifications or held such extreme views that they have caused a public outcry. One such case involves the appointment of Dr. W. David Hager to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Reproductive Health Advisory Committee, which advises the agency on contraceptives, abortion, and other potentially controversial medical issues such as hormone replacement therapy. The Bush administration initially suggested that Hager, an obstetrician-gynecologist with scant credentials and highly partisan political views,30 chair the FDA advisory committee. But, after widespread public outcry, he was installed simply as a committee member. His nomination represents a dramatic departure from any past appointments to this committee. He is best known for co-authoring a book that recommends particular scripture readings as a treatment for premenstrual syndrome31 and, in his private practice, Hager has reportedly refused to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women.32

Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS

Another high-profile appointment of a scientist with questionable credentials is the selection of Dr. Joseph McIlhaney to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. McIlhaney is a Texas-based doctor known for his published disdain for the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and his continued advocacy of abstinence-only programs despite negligible evidence that they actually reduce pregnancy rates among young people.33 Despite McIlhaney’s dearth of published, peer-reviewed scientific research or endorsement by any established medical societies, the Bush administration has selected him to serve in a new capacity during a four-year term on the Advisory Committee to the Director of CDC.34

30 See K. Tumulty, “Jesus and the FDA,” Time, October 5, 2002. According to this article: “Though his resume describes Hager as a University of Kentucky professor, a university offi cial says Hager’s appointment is part-time and voluntary and involves working with interns at Lexington’s Central Baptist Hospital, not the university itself.” By way of comparison, consider the credentials of at least two nominees proposed by FDA staff for Hager’s position: Donald R. Mattison, former dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and Michael F. Greene, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, as reported by OMBWatch.

31 For example, see W.D. Hager, As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1998.

32 Tumulty, Time.

33 See “The Assault on Birth Control and Family Planning Programs,” Planned Parenthood, October 2003. Online at 031030_birthcontrol_report.pdf; See also C. Connolly, “Texas Teaches Abstinence with Mixed Grades,” Washington Post, January 21, 2003.

34 CDC press release, “Secretary Thompson appoints nine to CDC Advisory Committee,” February 20, 2003.

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