The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has not had a permanent director since Linda Rosenstock resigned in November of 2000 - the longest hiatus in the agency's 31-year history.
The announcement late last week that Dr. John Howard would begin July 15 as the new director of NIOSH won immediate praise from stakeholders, who may be as happy a decision was finally made as with the man chosen by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
Howard brings an impressive resume of administrative, academic and public health experience to his new job. He served as the chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) in California's Department of Industrial Relations since 1991, where he administers a staff of nearly 1,000 and all the state's occupational and public safety programs. Prior to his appointment as NIOSH director, Howard was an assistant professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of California at Irvine.
He received a Doctor of Medicine degree from Loyola University in 1974, a Master of Occupational Health from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1982, a Juris Doctor from UCLA in 1986, and a Master of Laws in Administrative Law and Economic Regulation from George Washington University in 1987. Howard is a board-certified occupational physician and has written numerous papers on occupational health law and policy.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) welcomed the announcement. "Dr. Howard is an excellent choice," said AIHA director of government affairs Aaron Trippler. "He is highly regarded among professionals in the health and safety community with a solid grasp of the issues."
Gayla McCluskey, president of AIHA, said the association was "very pleased that the Bush administration has moved forward with the filling of this vital position after we sent President [Bush] a letter dated May 17 in which we asked him to please move forward with this appointment."
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney also welcomed the appointment of Howard, pointing out that he is a "highly qualified, respected safety and health professional who for more than a decade has been a strong effective leader for the state of California's occupational safety and health programs."